Northern Ireland news

Taxis and four year old cars with expired MOTs are being prioritised for tests

Screengrab from video from the Assembly of Julie Thompson, an official from the Department for Infrastructure, who said the faults which forced the near-closure of all Northern Ireland's MOT centres had come out of the blue. Picture by PA Photo

TAXIS and four-year-old cars with expired MOT certificates are being prioritised for tests, with Infrastructure minister Nichola Mallon ordering two independent reviews into the vehicle testing crisis.

It is expected to be "weeks or months" before defective lifts at centres across Northern Ireland are repaired by the Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA), after an inspection detected "signs of cracking" in 48 of 55.

Cracks were first detected in November but the issue escalated in the new year.

Each lift could cost £30,000 to £40,000 to replace, leading Sinn Féin member of the Infrastructure committee Cathal Boylan to warn yesterday the department has to be mindful that it is public money being spent.

DVA chief executive Paul Duffy said an insurance inspector who examined some of repaired lifts on Monday was not satisfied with the work.

Ms Mallon announced the reviews during a visit to a south Belfast MOT centre yesterday.

The minister's `first day brief' contained no mention of this impending crisis.

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

"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."

The agency is "working to urgently contact all owners of taxis and four year old cars to book them for MOT tests in the coming days... (with priority for) those with MOTs that have expired or expire today, so motorists can tax their vehicles".

Tests are continuing as usual on heavy goods vehicles and buses, which do not need lifts.

Other car owners with cancelled appointments will be issued with an MOT exemption certificate extending their current certificate for four months, allowing them to tax vehicles "as normal".

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

The Department for Infrastructure's Julie Thompson told a Stormont committee yesterday the issue "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 damage was detected on the scissor arms of the lifts, which were installed in 2011 or 2012, describing the situation as "very fluid and very recent".

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."

Alliance Infrastructure spokesman Andrew Muir said it is "ridiculous" people "may now have weeks or even months where no MOT certificates can be issued for cars and light vehicles", as "risks of having unroadworthy vehicles on the roads also continues to increase"

DUP chair of the committee Michelle McIlveen has written to the Department for Infrastructure asking for a regular briefing on "chaos"

"There had still not been a full explanation as to why the state of the lifts could have deteriorated to a point where all MOT tests have to be cancelled. There are more questions than answers at this stage and those answers must come primarily from the DVA."

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Northern Ireland news