Northern Ireland

MoTs: Two new lifts going into operation in Northern Ireland

Mallusk MoT Image copyright PAcemaker
Image caption Most MoT tests for cars and light vehicles in Northern Ireland have been suspended with immediate effect

Two new MoT lifts are to go into operation in Northern Ireland, possibly as early as Wednesday.

They had already been purchased from the same company that provided NI's other 55 lifts.

Most MoT tests for cars and light vehicles in Northern Ireland have been suspended with immediate effect.

It followed an inspection of vehicle lifts in NI's MoT centres that detected "signs of cracking" in 48 out of 55 lifts.

As of Tuesday, more than 7,000 MoT tests had been cancelled.

Speaking on Wednesday, Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon said the two new lifts - one in Belfast and one in Newbuildings in Londonderry - "will allow us to increase capacity, get to those priority motorists and start to address the backlog".

She said the lifts would be independently assessed before being put into operation in Belfast and Newbuildings.

Ms Mallon said she was also conscious that people with four-year-old vehicles were concerned that their cars may be clamped if they are not taxed.

"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."

Image caption Nichola Mallon said the new lifts would help the DVA prioritise taxis and four-year-old cars

The minister said that car dealerships were also being affected by the MoT problems, as they were trying to sell four-year-old cars.

"I have said to DVA officials that I want the car dealers to be expedited and prioritised in terms of getting brand new appointments," she said.

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Media captionSales lost because of MoT test cancellations, says Belfast dealer

"They should be getting proactively contacted by DVA, they should be getting appointments.

"Now that we've got these two new lifts in operation I've said that they must be used to prioritise taxis and four-year-old vehicles and that includes our car dealers."

One Belfast car dealer, Martin Hamill, said sales were already being lost.

"They just turned round and said they wouldn't be happy to take the car until it was MoT'd, so I think they're going to go out and buy another car maybe with an MoT on it or maybe a newer car," he said.

Meanwhile police in Northern Ireland have set out their position on the MoT cancellations.

In their statement, the Police Service of Northern Ireland said: "Driving without vehicle tax is not prosecuted by PSNI and is the remit of DVLA.

Image caption The BBC obtained a picture of a crack in a lift at one of the vehicle test centres in Northern Ireland

"Where a police officer detects a vehicle without tax and it is outside of the 14-day grace period provided in the legislation, a referral is made to the DVLA.

"Given these exceptional circumstances, where PSNI detects a vehicle without a valid MoT certificate, providing the vehicle is in a roadworthy condition, officers would be encouraged to exercise discretion."

MoT exemption certificates lasting four months will be issued so motorists are able to drive.

However, these cannot be issued for four-year-old cars or taxis.

This is because four-year-old cars have never been through an MoT test before, meaning they do not have a certificate to extend, while taxis are covered by different legislation.

An assembly member has called for emergency legislation to be brought in to address the MoT "crisis".

Image copyright Witthaya Prasongsin
Image caption As of Tuesday, more than 7,000 MoT tests had been cancelled

Roy Beggs said legislation should be considered to extend the period in which cars do not need to be have MoTs.

Mr Beggs, a member of the assembly's infrastructure committee, said he had put this to Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon.

"We have to remember there's a crisis coming in four months time," he said.

"In four months time we'll suddenly have twice as many as cars which will become due for MoT - those which are due at that time and those that are presently due."

Mr Beggs said at the minute cars that could be 10 years old were being exempted

"I would have thought four-year-old cars would be much, much safer, much newer and built to a much higher standard and there would be a lesser risk," he said.

"We need to investigate all options."

The infrastructure minister, Ms Mallon, said two reviews will be conducted to determine what went wrong and how to fix it.

Tests on heavy goods vehicles and buses will continue.

Daniel Donnelly, of the Federation of Small Businesses, said many small firms depended on their vehicles.

"It's absolutely key that clarity is brought soon," he said.

Paul Duffy, chief executive of the Driver Vehicle Agency, said each of the 55 lifts could cost £30,000 to £40,000 to replace.

He said an insurance inspector who examined some of the repaired lifts on Monday was not satisfied with the work.

As a result, the agency was not comfortable that the rest of the lifts were safe to use, he said.

Mr Duffy said it was too early to say whether the lifts could be repaired or would have to be replaced, but there was a possibility they may need to be replaced.

BBC News NI business reporter Richard Morgan

UK companies who manufacture MoT lifts told me the cost to replace each one could be in and around £30,000 to £40,000 because of the specifications required for testing in Northern Ireland.

The average manufacturing time for each lift can be anything from five to 10 weeks.

Depending on the capacity of the company they could make some simultaneously, but you are still talking a number of months to fulfil such an order.

One firm told me they could fulfil the order in four months if they pushed themselves - but that's because they already have 15 in stock.

So that length of time plus a contract of this size and scale would inevitably be put out to tender by the department and that process could take some time.

We don't know if the lifts will be replaced but it gives you a sense of the timescale and cost the department would be facing.

Ms Mallon said she has asked her permanent secretary to commission two separate reviews, which she will oversee.

The first investigation will focus on "the precise timeline and to understand who knew what and when and all actions taken".

Image caption The DVA has said it is too early to say whether vehicle lifts could be repaired or would have to be replaced

She said the review will be carried out independently by auditors from outside the Department for Infrastructure.

Thousands of MoTs had already been cancelled after the cracks in lifts were detected.

The suspension was announced on Monday night.

Motorists have also raised concerns about insurance cover if they are unable to get MoT certificates.

On Tuesday, AXA insurance said: "We are aware of the of the ongoing issues at MOT test centres in NI and that our customers may be concerned about their insurance cover.

"AXA can confirm that until this situation is resolved, it will not be a requirement for AXA customers to have a valid MOT certificate, as long as all other policy conditions are met".

Meanwhile, on Wednesday evening, the National Car Testing Service (NCTS) in the Republic of Ireland suspended the use of vehicle lifts used in its testing centres.

The NCTS said it was "recently made aware of a defect with a similar make and model" to its lifts.

Customers are advised to continue to book and turn up for tests. They will be completed without the under-body inspection, which will be conducted when checks have been made on the lifts.

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