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Mallon looking at option of MoT every two years but cannot say when centres will be fully operable

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Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon. Picture: NI Assembly

Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon. Picture: NI Assembly

Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon. Picture: NI Assembly

Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon has said she cannot give a date when MoT centres will become fully operational again.

She also said she is seeking legal advice on moving the MoT from every year to every two years.

Speaking to the Department for Infrastructure committee, Ms Mallon said the chaos around MoTs in Northern Ireland is an opportunity to reassess the entire service.

MoT tests for cars and light vehicles were suspended last week following concerns over lift equipment. A number of vehicle lifts are now in place at test centres to reduce the backlog.

The chief executive of the Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) said there was the funds to cover the cost of replacing lifts used to carry out MoT tests.

Paul Duffy revealed the same issue is being experienced in the Republic of Ireland, where the National Car Testing service (NCT) said it had noticed cracks in lifts, which has now been suspended.

"I am also aware now potentially cracks in lifts in other European countries and I understand the supplier is about to make a statement to each of its customers on this particular lift," he said.

Mr Duffy said he believed each lift could cost between £30,000 and £40,000 to replace and confirmed the DVA had the necessary funds to do so from resources including a £11million equipment fund.

The lifts at fault were installed over two years between August 2011 and November 2013.

"There was no indication there was a predetermined time period those lifts should be used for," said Mr Duffy.

"We carried out eight-weekly checks and six-monthly inspections and the independent inspections were done by the insurer. That gives us a degree of confidence around the lifts."

Mr Duffy told the committee that at the start of the year, the DVA had hired permanent vehicle examiners, put additional test lanes in place and extended opening hours, including working over bank holidays during summer months to deal with the backlog.

The agency was also in the process of building a new test centre at Hydebank to give an additional capacity of 90,000 tests annually.

It's believed it could take months for centres to be fully reopened.

Minister Nichola Mallon has begun two separate independent reviews into the crisis.

She said: "I have appointed as one of the two independent reviews an engineering expert company, they are currently on site assessing. They have been tasked with providing to me independent expert advice on business recovery.

"My focus here is not just on firefighting, getting over this crisis, it's about having to take a look at the entire system and the service," she said on Wednesday.

Ms Mallon said she also looking to extend MoT exemptions to three-year-old vans as part of a review.

Committee member UUP MLA Roy Beggs asked the minister what would happen when four-month temporary exemption certificates ran out.

He asked: "How soon do you feel you'll have the information to take the decision on further exemptions to let us get over the spike we know is coming?"

Ms Mallon said she is hoping to extend current exemption certificates to six months. She said a new customer helpline is currently being tested.

"I am trying to horizon scan for the here and now and see how we can buy ourselves more time and get business recovery back as quickly as possible," she said.

Belfast Telegraph