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Glitches delay computerised MoT scheme... again

The headline will provoke a collective groan from proprietors of the UK’s 18,500 vehicle test stations, but it’s a fact: the national implementation of computerised MoT that should have happened in 2002, then 2003 and then earlier this year has been put back until at least November.

The reason given for the latest delay is the usual one – the system isn’t quite right. And the Vehicle Operator Services Agency (VOSA), which inherited the Vehicle Inspectorate’s initiative designed to scrap the paper certificate MoT system and plug the country’s VTSs into a central database, has repeated it is not prepared to go live until it is certain all the bugs have been squashed.

Quite what bugs need to be exterminated is not specified, although we understand there are issues with emissions testing that still need to be resolved – more than four years after the equipment was first trialled.

VOSA communications manager Simon Duffin confirms: “The project is deliverable, the system design is sound, but more testing was needed before the test and trial stages commence.”

He adds that following an independent report into the programme last autumn, the agency called for a revised plan from software developer Siemens.

Internal trials now start at VOSA in June, 45 sites in three pilot areas will have the equipment in August and 995 stations will be logged on in September. The mandatory switchover should, therefore, be in November. Training will be carried out in small groups depending on the VTS layout, location of the VTS device and the number and make- up of staff. Further training will be available at a later date if required.

VOSA must be praying no further hold-ups will be necessary. There were red faces when representatives turned up the Aftermarket Show section of PACE at the NEC in January: the demo kit they’d brought along to show garage and VTS visitors didn’t work. They resorted to verbal explanations of how the paperless system will be of immense benefit to motorists, testers, to the VOSA and Government agencies.

But fully working demonstrations have been doing the rounds since Mechanex2004 in February and the feedback from VTS has been enthusiastic – 98% want the system. What they are not so enthused about are the delays.

Hugh Roberts, the former RMI director and head of the Independent Garage Association for 10 years, is the managing director of The MoT Club, a commercial organisation set up to offer business-to-business advice and support to the VTS sector.

“We’ve seen the system working and it all looks fine, but it seems VOSA wants it to be absolutely spot on before it goes live,” he says. “This is such a big thing, so it is understandable they want to get it right first time. But that may never happen. There are always little glitches in any new system.

“I believe it would be better to get this up and running now and iron out any problems as they arise.”

There’s no doubt MoT computerisation will happen – work on the system is far too advanced for it to be scrapped and the advantages of going electronic are clear. But the question remains. When?

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