Belfast Telegraph

How many days Northern Ireland drivers have to wait for MOT tests revealed

 

Calls have been made for exemption letters for motorists facing delays of up to eight weeks for an MOT appointment across Northern Ireland
Calls have been made for exemption letters for motorists facing delays of up to eight weeks for an MOT appointment across Northern Ireland
Donna Deeney

By Donna Deeney

Calls have been made for exemption letters for motorists facing delays of up to eight weeks for an MOT appointment across Northern Ireland.

Drivers are facing an average wait of over 30 days for their annual vehicle check at 15 test centres - with the longest wait of 47 days at Newbuildings.

The shortest wait is in Cookstown, at 31 days.

The remaining MOT centres average between 33 and 46 days.

The next available appointment for a car owner hoping to book a test anywhere is on July 15 in Enniskillen and Larne.

Drivers in Craigavon, Omagh and Londonderry have to wait until at least July 26 for a test slot.

At the 10 remaining test centres, the next available appointment ranges from July 18 to July 23, but these delays are expected to grow over the summer months when demand is highest.

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The Department for Infrastructure (DfI) has blamed an "unprecedented increase" of nearly 5% in test applications between January and March 2019 compared to last year - almost 15,000 additional tests in the first three months of this year.

DfI said the Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) has recruited extra temporary and permanent staff to help reduce these waiting times. It said the DVA is also giving "urgent consideration" to the possibility of MOT centres opening on Sundays for a "limited period of time to address the current backlog in applications".

Sinead McShane from Derry says that she has been stranded without her car until the end of July, and insisted this does not go far enough to remedy the problem.

"My car tax was up at the end of May and I went to book my MOT so I would have everything in order before then," she said.

"I put in 'next available appointment' and I was given July 25. I can't get my car taxed without an MOT certificate so I am essentially off the road until the end of July through no fault of my own.

"This is ridiculous and I know I am not in this boat on my own. The whole of Derry is talking about how long they are having to wait to get their car through MOT.

"I remember years ago when there were delays like this you got a letter allowing you to drive so long as you had an appointment for a test.

"This needs to be done again because I am going to have to find an alternative way to get to my work but I need my car to visit my elderly parents too."

Meanwhile, Derry used-car dealer George O'Hara said the situation is beginning to affect his business.

"These delays across Northern Ireland are having a big financial impact on car dealers like me," he said.

"Right now I can have six or seven cars sitting in my yard waiting to go through the MOT.

"These are cars that I could sell and cars that people are looking to buy but because they won't be MOT-ed for six or seven weeks they are sitting there and that is impacting on my turnover."

Similar delays were felt here in 2004 when staff at MOT centres took part in industrial action.

However, the impact was softened by exemption letters issued to drivers who had an appointment, allowing them to use their vehicles in the interim period. Emergency legislation was rushed through the House of Commons to allow this to happen.

Mr O'Hara insisted DfI must use such measures again to help tackle the backlog.

"The department needs to bring back the exemption letters they issued a few years ago when their staff were in the middle of a strike because it wasn't the fault of car owners then and this isn't the fault of car owners now," he said.

DfI said a new test centre, located at Hydebank, will be built by the end of 2021.

The DVA also urged drivers to ensure they attend their MOT appointment, or if they can't, to cancel it well in advance so others do not miss out.

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