TWO new lifts are to go into operation at MOT test centres in Northern Ireland after tests were suspended earlier this week over safety fears.
Infrastructure minister Nichola Mallon said she hoped the move would help ease a growing backlog following the suspension of tests for cars and light vehicles because of faults with lifts, as reported by Car Dealer.
A full suspension was announced on Monday evening after signs of cracking were found by the Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) in 48 of 55 lifts, leading to some 5,000 MOT tests already being cancelled.
Tests were suspended at all 15 of the DVA’s centres – the only places where MOT tests can be carried out in Northern Ireland.
Mallon said the two new lifts ‘will allow us to increase capacity, get to those priority motorists and start to address the backlog’. She added they had already been bought and were in the system.
Most cars will be issued with exemption certificates lasting four months, but they can’t be created for four-year-old cars or taxis.
The DVA is contacting owners of four-year-old cars to help them book MOT tests in the coming days, with priority being given to those with MOTs that have expired or are expiring now, so that motorists can tax their vehicles.
The minister also moved to allay fears that people with four-year-old vehicles may see their cars clamped if they aren’t taxed.
‘The DVA is not responsible for clamping vehicles – it is the DVLA, which is a separate agency,’ she said.
‘But my department has been in close contact with them. We are making it clear that no one should be penalised for a situation not of their making – very close to the position and assurances that we were able to obtain from the Association of British Insurers.’
The Police Service of Northern Ireland – which refers details of untaxed vehicles to the DVLA to prosecute – said its officers were being encouraged to exercise discretion.
Cracks in vehicle lifts were first detected in November but the problem rapidly escalated this month.
DVA chief executive Paul Duffy ordered the halting of tests for cars and light vehicles on Monday after failing to receive adequate assurances about repairs.
During a visit to the Balmoral MOT centre in Belfast, pictured, Mallon said she had ordered and would oversee two independent reviews, adding: ‘I am very clear that this situation is not acceptable. I took up the post two weeks ago and I have inherited this mess.
‘The first review will be conducted by independent professional auditors – I want to understand exactly what happened here, who knew what, when and what action was taken and the timelines involved.
‘The second review, I have asked that an independent expert is appointed who can provide me with independent advice about the steps that now must be taken to ensure that we can get back to business as usual and safely in our MOT centres across Northern Ireland.’