| 10.9°C Belfast

New lifts installed as NI MOT test centres prepare for phased return of services

Close

Announcement: Nichola Mallon

Announcement: Nichola Mallon

PA

Announcement: Nichola Mallon

Drivers in Northern Ireland are to see an increase in MoT services and driving tests in the coming weeks, the Infrastructure Minister has said.

Nichola Mallon said there would be a phased return to services.

She also revealed that new lifts have been installed at 10 test centres after cracks in older lifts led to long inspection delays. Remaining lifts are due to be in place by mid-July.

However, test centres will operate with fewer staff in order to abide by social distancing regulations. Balmoral and Newtownards test centres are still in use as Covid-19 related testing and are still not available.

Drivers in Northern Ireland whose MoTs were due during the pandemic shutdown had been given a one-year exemption, and the Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) had issued temporary exemption certificates (TECs).

From July 20, the DVA plans to resume MoT testing for priority vehicle groups, including any not able to avail of TECs.

This includes taxis and buses due a first time test; vehicles not previously registered in Northern Ireland; vehicles with MoTs that have expired by more than 12 months, including vehicles previously declared off the road, and those sold by dealerships.

MoT tests for other vehicles - such as four-year-old cars and motorbikes and three-year-old light goods vehicles - and testing of heavy goods vehicles, trailers and buses is planned to commence in August.

An exact date will be confirmed once the demand for the initial priority groups has been addressed. These customers will be sent reminder letters with details of how to book a test at the appropriate time.

Motorbike tests are planned from July 6 and tests for drivers of buses, tractors and practical tests for lorry, bus and coach drivers are planned from July 20.

Driving theory tests remain suspended, although a date for the resumption of this service is expected soon shortly.

Yesterday Ms Mallon said: "Since the Covid-19 outbreak, my priority has been the safety of the public and staff and all vehicle and driving tests at all DVA testing centres were suspended for three months, until today, June 22, 2020.

"My officials have been working hard to find solutions to help customers and a number of measures have been put in place, including a range of exemptions and extensions so that, as far as possible, vehicles can be kept on the road safely and most people can keep driving.

"However, I am very conscious that for the past number of months some types of vehicles that need MoTs have had to stay off the road. I also recognise the frustrations of those customers not able to take driving tests during this time and the inconvenience this has caused."

A phone booking line will be open from July 1 for customers in the priority groups to arrange an MoT appointment, but online booking will not be available.

The minister added: "Consultation is ongoing with trade unions with a view to the phased return of testing. To adhere to social distancing requirements it will be necessary to operate test centres with reduced staffing levels and with some changes to the testing process to keep staff and customers safe.

"While this is progress and we will be able to prioritise customers that cannot currently get their vehicles on the road, it is unfortunately not practicable to safely resume all services at this time, including car driving tests.

"However, some driver testing services for those vehicle types where social distancing is possible is planned from next month.

"As we work towards recovery from the impacts of Covid-19, I'm pleased we are able to help these customers get back on track."

Belfast Telegraph