August 8 2008.

Major gaps in the network of motorcycle test centres required for the new motorcycle test and further test booking delays means that implementation of the new test must be delayed until 2009, the RMI's Motorcycle Rider Training Association (MRTA) has again warned.

The new test is due to be introduced on 29 September 2008 as a result of new requirements included in the Second EC Driving Licence Directive (Directive 2000/56/EC). The Driving Standards Agency (DSA) implementation plan depends upon the development of a minimum of 66 new Multi Purpose Test Centres (MPTCs) around the country that enable the new 'off-road' portion of the test to be taken before the usual 'on-road' test.

Currently, only 38 Multi Purpose Test Centres (MPTCs) will be operational by the implementation date supported by at most 14 temporary sites, but these will have significantly restricted availability. This is set against the DSA's own target of 66 MPTCs ready and operational by 29 September.

At the same time, the DSA has progressively shortened the advance test booking period for the new test from ten to eight weeks, and most recently down to six weeks. The MRTA also understands that booking facilities for the temporary sites will have an even shorter lead time.

Commenting on this situation, MRTA Chairman Kevin Bryan said; 'This is making it impossible for rider training companies to plan ahead and is already affecting business. With many trainees choosing 'intensive' courses with a test at the conclusion, the fact is that we can't sell such courses as we have no way of knowing what tests will be available or where after 29 September. There are seemingly no test slots available anywhere in the country before 29 September excepting cancellations and no ability to plan business beyond that point. The situation naturally affects current trainees and every member of the public looking to take their motorcycle test.

Bryan continues: 'The DSA's actions are having a massively damaging effect on MRTA members' businesses during what is an absolutely crucial time for them before the seasonal slowdown. The MPTC network is not ready and neither is the necessary DSA infrastructure otherwise we wouldn't be facing these additional delays. MRTA supports the new test but DSA must call a stop to the September implementation for at least six months or until such time as the network is fully ready to avoid chaos in the training industry and unacceptable extra training costs to new riders.'

The MRTA has again written to the Transport Ministerto call for the test to be deferred and will also be meeting senior Department for Transport officials shortly to address the issue. MRTA is also maintaining close liaison with other industry stakeholders including the Motorcycle Industry Association (MCI) so that the interests of the wider sector are properly addressed.

Bryan adds: 'The whole motorcycle sector could be damaged by the current test situation. The DSA must act to protect the industry, and the interests of its customers, who will also suffer.'