The Malta Bus or 'Xarabank'
Buses at Valletta Bus Terminus (Photo by Andreas Steinbach, 1994)
The main type of public tansport in Malta which runs on a schedule is the bus service. The bus is locally called a 'Xarabank'. There is also the ferry service, as well as taxis, coaches and mini-buses which can be rented.
The first bus, called the motor omnibus started operating in 1904. In 1905, The Malta Motor Omnibus and Transport Syndicate Ltd. was set up, however its service was rather restricted. In 1920, the Cottonera Motor Bus Co. was set up and others soon followed so that by 1930, the total number of buses had already reached 385.
Due to intense competition, some companies had to be liquidated and many bus drivers became owners. In 1931, the Traffic Control Board was set up to control and organize the public transport system. In 1977, the route buses were organized into one group called the Public Transport Association in order to offer a more efficient system. This assosciation still runs the 'xarabank' service to date. The Association is run by the bus drivers themselves.
In Gozo, there is a separate bus service run by the Gozo Public Transport. The buses even have a different colour from those found in Malta and their numbers are smaller since Gozo is smaller than Malta. The first bus started operating in Gozo in 1925.
Most of the buses used in Malta and Gozo are very old, however thery are full of character. Very few buses are exactly alike except perhaps for the ones imported during the 80s. Unfortunately, most of these buses are going to be replaced by new ones. The good news is that these old buses are going to be exhibited in a Transport Museum which is going to be set up.
The transport system in Malta is very simple. The main bus terminus is located in Valletta, the capital city of Malta. All buses run from this terminus to the different towns and villages. Each route is assigned a number and the buses stop to pick up more people on the way from the numerous bus stops. The buses then return to Valletta from the different destinations.
There are also a few direct buses which operate between selected destinations. A number of local councils have introduced public transport within their locality. However, this is still on a trail bases.
In Gozo, the system is similar to the one used in Malta. The main terminus is located in Victoria, which is the capital city of Gozo. All buses leave to the different villages from here and then return.
Over the years, different types fo bus tickets were used. In recent years, some advertisements started appearing on the tickets (as well as on the buses). The present bus fare is of 15c. The special service which operates between selected destination after normal hours costs 50c and non-stop tickets cost 40c. The Public Transport Association has also introduced one, three, five and seven day tickets. In Gozo, a different type of bus ticket is used which costs 15c.