April 2013 Event: 'Colourful Bus Trip into Nostalgia' by Albert Agius

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MHA-April13-FrancesBonnici-AlbertAgiusMHA President Mrs Frances Bonnici with guest speaker Mr Albert AgiusGuest speaker at the April 2013 MHA Event held on 16 April 2013 at the Maltese Community Centre in Parkville was Mr Albert Agius, who took us through the years beginning in 1905 when the first bus route was established between Valetta and St Andrews. A year later, the route was expanded to St Julians with nine double-decker buses, but it soon stopped.

During WWI Malta had an influx of wounded solders. With them came doctors and nurses, and they all needed transport.  By 1920, the British Motor Company (BMC) was manufacturing bus bodies in Malta. In 1921, a new bus route started between Valetta and the Cottonera, and a Valletta bus terminus was established.

Other routes opened up, eg, the Sliema and St Julians route, the Zebbug and Birkirkara route. At this time all busses were owned by the drivers. It was felt that the pulic transport needed organisation. It was proposed that all bus transport should be:

(a) nationalised,

(b) the number of buses to be increased,

(c) all the buses should work in a single company. 

The latter was favoured by the driver-owners.

MaltessBusticketsIn 1930, the Traffic Control Board was formed  and it was decided that the drivers' cabin be cut off from the passengers. It is to be noted that in 1928, Joe Gasan appeared on the scene. He imported 42 new buses and obtained 10 licences.

MalteseBusesThe colourful Maltese busesMost of us remember the various colours for each bus route. That was in the 1950s. The reason for this was that because of illiteracy the colour served a purpose for identification.


In 2011 there was a dramatic change. All the old buses were either scrapped or put to other uses. The new buses were taken over by Arriva. The fleet was new, more comfortable, and the number of seats was increased. The bus stages were modernised, and thebus times were electronically shown. Arriva created other bus routes, and the time-table improved. That is not to say that everything ran smoothly: they had teething problems.

MHA-April13-AudienceThe gathering for the presentationWhat happened to the old buses, one might ask? Some of them found themselves in London where they were converted and used for the London Olympic games of 2012. Others were salvaged and pushed in a hangar close to Gudja, waiting for a bus museum. Another one is being used as a souvenir shop.



Mr Albert Agius is well known to members of the MHA as he frequently attends talks or presents lectures. He was instrumental in the formation of the association when, even before its inception, he encouraged his brother-in-law Chev. Joseph C. Sammut to give two talks (one about Maltese coins and another about Maltese and British cartoons on Malta) to groups of people at the Maltese centre. Albert migrated to Australia in 1978 and quickly took an interest in the various activities of the Maltese community.

Mr Agius was correspondent for the 'Times of Malta' for some 25 years reporting on different events taking place within the community. He was the senior journalist in the Maltese Language programs on SBS radio between 1987 and 1989. He also contributed feature articles and news stories in the 'Malta Cross' and 'Il-Maltija'. His full-time job was as an Administrative Officer in the Department of Health with the Commonwealth Government of Australia.

In September 1993 Mr Agius was seconded by the Australian Government as a Consultant to the Parliamentary Secretariat for the Care of the Elderly in Malta under the auspices of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). In 1997 Albert became a Member of the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta. In May 2000, Albert published 'It-Tezawru' the first thesaurus published in the Maltese language. Last year he published the second Tezawru. Other publications by Albert Aguis are 'Qwiel, idjomi u Laqmijiet Maltin' as well as 'Building a Community' and 'Fears, Tears and Cheers' two books in the series 'Maltese Settlement in Australia'


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