Archive for March 31st, 2009

No money for Attard railway station restoration yet

March 31, 2009

Nationalist MP Charlò Bonnici is insisting the government funds the entire restoration of Attard’s old railway station, after the minister responsible for Heritage Malta said that only an estimate of costs could be provided.

Education and Culture Minister Dolores Cristina told the MP in parliament that Heritage Malta is only willing to provide the local council “with a quote of the works needed” if the council takes responsibility for this project.

Bonnici, a former deputy mayor of Attard, was asking the minister whether Heritage Malta was willing to finance restoration of the embankment and railway remains which he says is part of the national heritage.

Bonnici insists local councils do not have the necessary funds to carry out such projects unless they are voted specifically by government. “Getting an estimate for the job or taking responsibility for the project was never an issue for the council… the problem was getting the necessary funds,” he told MaltaToday.

He added that the project should be in the list of national projects for possibly co-financing by the EU.

But Alternattiva Demokratika councillor Ralph Cassar is insisting for Heritage Malta to at least conduct urgent works, because parts of the embankment are literally falling apart.

Cassar will be asking the council to write once again to Heritage Malta to explore ways to finance the project. “The local council’s staff surely needs the advice of Heritage Malta in its bid to seek funds for the project.”

Historian Henry Frendo describes Attard as a pivotal communication centre between 1883 and 1931, being the only place in Malta with no fewer than three railway stations: one near Sant’ Anton close to Balzan, another up the road in what is now “Gnien l-Istazzjon”, and another further up in Tas-Salvatur on the way to Rabat.

The heritage authorities are aware of the state of this relic of Malta’s transport history.
In 2007, both Bonnici and Cassar met the superintendent for cultural heritage who was aware of the problem. The council also alerted the Works Division. But while two officials from the division carried out a site inspection, no action was taken.

In June 2008, the Attard council wrote a letter to Heritage Malta requesting help. “We only received an acknowledgment. But we were never told whether Heritage Malta will help us or not,” Cassar said.

Cassar suggests it would be a good idea to ‘devolve’ the embankment to the local council, but due to the extent of the damage and length of the embankment the expense to restore it would cost thousands of euros, something which a local council on its own cannot really afford. “It would be a shame to let this unique piece of industrial architecture deteriorate.”