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Editor's Viewpoint

Answers are needed now over MoT farce

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An headlight beam test is carried out on a vehicle during its MOT test at the Balmoral MOT centre in Belfast. PA Photo. Picture date: Tuesday January 28, 2020. Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon has ordered two independent reviews after issues with lift equipment led to the suspension of most MOT tests. See PA story ULSTER Mot. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

An headlight beam test is carried out on a vehicle during its MOT test at the Balmoral MOT centre in Belfast. PA Photo. Picture date: Tuesday January 28, 2020. Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon has ordered two independent reviews after issues with lift equipment led to the suspension of most MOT tests. See PA story ULSTER Mot. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

PA

An headlight beam test is carried out on a vehicle during its MOT test at the Balmoral MOT centre in Belfast. PA Photo. Picture date: Tuesday January 28, 2020. Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon has ordered two independent reviews after issues with lift equipment led to the suspension of most MOT tests. See PA story ULSTER Mot. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

When Nichola Mallon was appointed Infrastructure Minister her thoughts quite naturally would have turned to the big issues in her in-tray - the York Street interchange, the A5 road from Aughnacloy to Londonderry, and funding to upgrade water and sewage treatment works.

She could hardly have imagined that it would be something much more mundane that would cause her first big headache. MoTs for cars and light vehicles were suspended on Monday after it was discovered that 48 of the 55 vehicle lifts in the 15 MoT centres were cracked and potentially dangerous.

The minister has ordered two reviews - one of events leading up to the suspension of MoT testing and the other on how to return the centres to a situation where full testing can be restored.

But that does nothing to alleviate the problems for many motorists. Those with cars due to undergo their first MoT and taxi drivers will not be given an exemption certificate. They will just have to wait until their cars can be tested.

All other car and light vehicle owners will be given four-month exemption certificates enabling them to continue driving - or does it? Will that be acceptable to insurance companies and will the tax authorities issue their certificates on the strength of the exemption documents?

What about people who need their vehicles for their jobs but cannot drive them? These could include care in the community workers as well as the self-employed and those who have to commute to work.

Will they be entitled to compensation for the hardship caused through no fault of their own?

As well, the public is puzzled at how nearly all the lifts in MoT centres developed cracks at the same time. These lifts were installed eight or nine years ago, but even given their workload, it seems astonishing that all but seven failed at the same time. The cracks were discovered in November but the problem has only been disclosed now. Why? And what happens employees in the centres until services are restored? Could garages not deal with some of the backlog?

The minister is right to ensure that no risks with safety are taken, but suddenly she could be faced with a bill for millions to replace the damaged equipment.

With Stormont already complaining that it has been short-changed by the Treasury, that is certainly something she had not budgeted for.

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