Malta is not new to public rail transport. A train line from Valletta to Mdina, two of Malta's main cities, operated between 1883 and 1931. Before the introduction of buses, commuters would connect to line at any point along the route by means of horse-drawn carriages. The infrastructure suffered from setbacks including expropriation difficulties and bankruptcy in 1890, resulting in forced take-over by the government. It eventually became defunct due to direct competition from the tram and bus service, which operated parallel to the train along parts of the route (Darmanin, 2008).

The tramway service operated between 1904 and 1929. After this date, public transport was completely dependent on privately owned busses. The bus system has been the primary means of public transport since the railway line closed down in 1931. The service consisted in privately owned busses, operating on a centralized network based on the Valletta terminus.


In July 2011, private contractor Arriva took over the service but suffered from several shortcomings, including the size of its fleet and limited drivers. This, coupled with completely new routes, resulted in longer waiting and travel times for commuters, losses and reduced faith in public transport.

In January 2014 the government was forced to take over management of the bus system from private operator Arriva, which withdrew after just 30 months in operation. This move has caused uncertainty on the future of Malta's main public transport system. A lack of confidence in the bus system has resulted in less people using public transport, causing problems for both sectors. This is partly evident with Malta having 764.4 licensed road vehicles per 1000 inhabitants (National Statistics Office, 2013, p. vii), one of the highest rates in the world. It must be said that this value comes not only as a result of poor faith in public transport, but also due to several other cultural and socio-economic factors previously described.

Old train (black) and tram (coloured) routes.
Old Bus Routes
Arriva Bus Routes