Northern Ireland news

Nichola Mallon orders review into MOT test centre lift 'mess'

Infrastructure minister Nichola Mallon. Picture by Mark Marlow

Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon has ordered two independent reviews around how issues with lift equipment at MOT test centres led to tests for cars and light vehicles being suspended.

"I am very clear that this situation is not acceptable, I took up post two weeks ago and I have inherited this mess," she said, speaking to the media during a visit to an MOT centre in Belfast.

"I have instructed the permanent secretary for the department for infrastructure to commission two reviews that will be overseen by me.

"The first review will be conducted by independent professional auditors - I want to understand exactly what happened here, who knew, what, when and what action was taken and the timelines involved.

"The second review, I have asked that an independent expert is appointed who can provide me with independent advice about the steps that now must be taken to ensure that we can get back to business as usual and safely in our MOT centres across Northern Ireland."

Cracks in vehicle lifts were first detected in November but the problem rapidly escalated this month.

Paul Duffy, chief executive of the Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA), ordered the halting of most tests on Monday after failing to receive adequate assurances about repairs.

Julie Thompson from Stormont's Infrastructure Department said: "This has come out of the blue."

By earlier this month signs of cracking were detected in 48 of 55 lifts.

Taxis and four-year-old cars are being prioritised for roadworthiness tests following the partial shutdown at test centres.

Heavy goods vehicles and buses are continuing to be tested because they do not involve use of lifts.

Ms Thompson told Stormont's infrastructure committee: "Yesterday came as a big shock, the fact that the supplier said they did not have sufficient assurance over the repairs that were in place."

She said the parties involved need to learn lessons for the future to prevent the problem from recurring.

Sinn Féin committee member Raymond McCartney said: "If you bought a new car and there were 48 faults within a short period you would be back to the supplier saying this is not the car I bought and it is under warranty.

"Forty-eight lifts, all cracked - there is a design fault or something.

"People will ask questions as to why it was not picked up earlier."

Damage was detected on the scissor arms of the lifts, which were installed in 2011 or 2012, Ms Thompson said.

She added the department might have to buy new equipment.

"When you are in a position whereby this has never happened before, this is very fluid and very recent."

MoT exemption certificates lasting four months will be issued to those affected so motorists can continue to drive.

They cannot be created for four-year-old cars or taxis.

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