A dedicated ‘MOT helpline’ has been set up in Northern Ireland for owners of priority vehicles, following the suspension of all MOT tests across the country last month.
The Driver Vehicle Agency, the body responsible for licensing and testing vehicles in Northern Ireland, suspended all MOT tests following the discovery of serious shortcomings at several test centres. Two new lifts are now in operation in Belfast and Newbuildings, and three existing units in Belfast and Lisburn have been cleared for use by inspectors.
Priority vehicles include four-year-old cars that are due their first MOT, taxis and those currently in stock at dealerships, which are ineligible for a temporary exemption certificate. Owners of these vehicles are encouraged to call the helpline, which is open from 9am-5pm, to organise a test appointment as soon as possible.
Buses, motorcycles and HGVs continue to be unaffected by the test cancellations, and owners are requested to attend their appointments.
The suspension came after serious cracks were found in in 48 of Northern Ireland’s 55 state-operated MOT lifts, prompting the immediate cancellation of around 5000 tests.
The DVA said later inspections of the faults did not provide “sufficient assurance” of the safety of the repairs being carried out by an external contractor.
Paul Duffy, Chief Executive of the DVA, spoke to the BBC in the wake of the announcement. “This is hugely embarrassing”, he is quoted as saying. “I think we have a fairly good reputation and this is something that has tarnished that reputation.”
The DVA is reported to be considering various means of recommencing MOT tests, including the purchase of new lifts. Drivers have been advised to keep up to date with the situation via social media and government website nidirect.gov.uk.
Unlike in Britain, MOT tests in Northern Ireland are carried out at 15 centres run by the DVA on behalf of the government.