April 17 2009.

Transport minister Jim Fitzpatrick needs to intervene to prevent the collapse of the motorcycle testing system, according to motorcycle and training organisations, who are warning that the implementation of the new motorcycle testing package on April 29 could put lives and businesses at risk.

The Motor Cycle Industry Association (MCI), together with its training arm the Motor Cycle Industry Trainers' Association (MCITA), the Local Authorities Road Safety Officers Association (LARSOA), the Motorcycle Action Group (MAG) and the British Motorcyclists Federation (BMF) have written to Mr Fitzpatrick to warn that, despite a six-month delay to find more test sites, there are still not enough sites to meet demand, and trainers have found themselves unable to book the tests that their trainees need.

Mr Fitzpatrick was told: "Although the delay period is nearly at an end, there has been no significant improvement in the situation with regard to the promised 66 full time multi-purpose test centres (MPTC). Only 44 will be in operation when the new test goes 'live' at the end of April - just five more than in September, 2008.

"Although a further delay is not legislatively possible at this stage, it is essential that some form of transitional measures are retained, or some way found for existing infrastructure to be used to deliver the new test, or there is a real risk of systemic collapse, business closures, job losses and compromised road safety."

Unless action is taken, there is a real danger that the whole motorcycle test system will fall into chaos. Even with 66 MPTCs, there will still be an 80 per cent reduction in the number of available test sites, leaving candidates in many parts of the country virtually unable to secure a motorcycle test. More importantly, the motorcycle industry fears that longer journeys to fewer test centres will bring significant road safety risks. All good advice to novice riders tells them not to undertake long journeys in heavy traffic soon after taking their test, but to build up slowly as they gain experience. Some test candidates could face a journey of 100 miles or more in each direction, coupled with the stress of taking a test. There is a real risk that riders will opt out of testing and become "permanent learners," a huge set-back to motorcycle safety.

MCI's Sheila Rainger commented: "While the industry was pleased to take part in the consultations on the new test system and to participate in the DSA's Stakeholder Group, we remain deeply concerned that progress on identifying new sites has simply stalled, while the test booking system is not fit for purpose. We continue to talk to the DSA, but feel that the infrastructure to support the new test is not in place. Action must be taken now, or we will lose good trainers and condemn novice motorcyclists to a test regime that is not fit for purpose."

The BMF's government relations executive Chris Hodder said: "This is no way to introduce a new test regime. There are insufficient centres and major problems over the booking process, but more importantly, inexperienced learner motorcyclists are being forced to travel excessive distances to take a test, and bizarrely, even if they fail, will be forced to ride a long distance home. It's time for the government to bite the bullet and delay the test's introduction."

Newly-elected chairman of the Motorcycle Action Group, Paul Turner, said: "If the DSA genuinely values its customers, especially the most vulnerable among them, it should act responsibly by not forcing the new test through until all the test facilities have been built. Large parts of Great Britain will have no test facilities; we fear that riders may soon find it difficult to get local training as the lack of test centres mean training schools cannot run their businesses."