After repeated delays and technical setbacks, computerisation of the MoT system looks to be finally going ahead in early 2004, almost two years later than originally planned.
The scheme, which was originally scheduled to commence in May 2002, has been dogged by delays since it was announced. Initially it was postponed until January 2003, but further technical glitches caused the launch to be put back again to this autumn.
While the Vehicle Inspectorate's successor, the Vehicle Operator Services Agency, has not given a definitive date for the launch, it is confident the new paperless system will start to be implemented early next year, with trials at a number of test stations due to start this month.
The VOSA has blamed the delays on difficulties with software. But even when the system is finally rolled out, it could take up to six months before all 19,000 vehicle test stations are online.
This could lead to a two-tiered system, with some stations computerised and others still issuing the old-style certificates. The VOSA, however, is confident there will be no further problems. “We have ensured that the system is right before putting it out to the stations,” says a VOSA spokesman.
John Wesley, the MVRA's MoT specialist, believes the new system will hit criminals. “The VOSA will have a greater insight into what vehicles are on the road and will be able to trace stolen vehicles more easily,' he says.
His main concern is hidden costs stations could incur. “If anything goes wrong with the equipment due to operator negligence, then the testing station will be liable for the cost,” says Wesley. “When a replacement mouse could cost as much as £100 this is something stations need to be very aware of.”