To contract or to operate publicly? Observations from the bus service reform transition process in Malta

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - europe, mode - bus, ridership - attitudes, planning - service quality, organisation - privatisation, organisation - competition, organisation - governance, organisation - nationalisation


Bus, Reform, Operations, Malta, Thematic analysis, Attitudes


Efficient bus service operations involve a multitude of simultaneous activities, including ensuring delivery of a service quality that satisfies customers. This paper refers to the case of bus service operations in Malta. Prior to 2011 bus service operations in Malta had not changed fundamentally for four decades. Since 2011, following a major bus service reform, bus service operations have changed a further two times. This paper discusses the four models of bus service operations experienced in Malta: Model 1 – a monopoly, Model 2 – privatisation through competitive tendering, Model 3 – nationalisation, and Model 4 – privatisation through negotiation. The paper aims to provide insights on the four models and applies a stakeholders' approach to identify how these models have affected attitudes towards the bus service in Malta amongst the public. Thirty-four in-depth, semi-structured interviews were conducted with Maltese residents and tourists visiting Malta. The main bus service characteristics that influenced the stakeholders' evaluations of the service were identified using thematic analysis. The analysis indicates that bus patrons are primarily interested in service delivery; they are not influenced by how the operator is selected. The paper draws conclusions on the wider relevance of these findings to bus operations at an international level.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Elsevier, copyright remains with them.


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