On the 21st of June of last year I had to run an errand by foot, and to avoid the scorching heat that summer brings with it, I took a short cut through the old Birkirkara railway station. What I saw in there appalled me. The benches were either broken or in desperate need of restoration, the trees abandoned, many of them uprooted and much better off had they been in the western Sahara desert than in their sorry little spot of dry arid soil that was crying for water. There was no sign of dustbins anywhere, needless to say no sign of a caretaker, the paths were literally covered in dead leaves that had undoubtedly been accumulating over the days and weeks and the tiles were uneven, unstable, and dangerous to walk on. Obviously there was no public convenience anywhere in sight except for a mobile toilet without an actual toilet in it. Construction material was scattered as if it had not been used for weeks, and heavy machinery was parked or rather abandoned in the middle of all this chaos, blocking proper access. It was a sorry sight of a sorry site comparable to the eerie abandoned villages we see on movies and I could not just keep on walking without commenting on it. So as the trend is today, I posted a plea on Facebook, which post I am including in the article of today urging the authorities to take the necessary action and stop the deterioration of such a gem.
To be honest I knew that my rant would be a cry in the desert, at best I would get some likes and maybe a comment or two and life would go on as if nothing ever happened, but I decided to post it just the same. Birkirkara is the largest village in Malta but unlike other major towns and villages it has little or no open spaces where residents can recreate themselves. It is a major traffic artery and the air feels heavy in most parts of this village. It is landlocked and densely populated and whilst the villages surrounding it either have access to the sea as in the case of Msida, or house huge gardens as in the case of Balzan and Lija; Birkirkara has nothing of the sort and the only time it gets a mention on national news is when the streets and roads flood after a heavy rain fall. It has unfortunately become a mass of buildings, with mediocre architecture at best, street after street, block after block. Hence the importance of making the best of this open space.
A year is a long time and to be completely honest I had forgotten about my little walk in the park but yesterday an advert caught my eye about a music gig that was on later on in the evening, and guess what? It was being held at the Old Birkirkara Railway station. Curiosity killed the cat and I am the curious type so I decided to walk the half a mile or so from my house to the station to see for myself what was going on there. The sight that greeted me when I arrived, (a little short of breath) took me by surprise, and the rundown space I had walked in a year ago had been transformed into a hive of activity. Live music, people young and old alike enjoying themselves on a lovely summer solstice night, a fast food restaurant, drink stalls, and proper lighting. The Station felt alive, yesterday night. An old tram has been restored and now stands proudly where it must have stood over a hundred years ago. The trees are pruned and the whole area has an air of freshness about it, the kids’ play area is well maintained and the public convenience is clean and looked after.
It is clearly a case where private public partnership has worked really well. I do not mean to say that my post of last year has helped in any way to transform this place but I am glad that there are people in our communities that share the same line of thought.
The Birkirkara local council is often criticized and many a time the criticism is well founded but I deem it important on occasions like these to give credit where credit is due. I am sure that the task to manage a village like Birkirkara is a humongous one and considering the lack to funds, and a thousand and one other problems, the Mayor and the staff do work miracles.
This transformation of the station is one to be lauded and it should set an example to other councils around Malta to invest more in private public partnerships that makes our villages towns and cities a better place to live in.
Some food for thought for the Birkirkara mayor for the next private public partnership project… I think the village is in dire need of a community swimming pool. Get going !