New test disaster averted – motorcycle lobby wins U-turn

Following two years of hard campaigning, the Motorcycle Action Group (MAG) has welcomed the official announcement of an eleventh-hour delay to the introduction of an extended practical test for new motorcycle riders.

Several large regions would have been left without any test facilities. Riders in many parts of the country faced journeys of several hours to reach a test centre.

Three out of four Driving Standards Agency (DSA) test centres are due to be sold-off to fund a small number of new “Multi-Purpose Test Centres” (MPTCs) capable of hosting the new test.

The regulations were due to be imposed at the end of September, but with less than half the test centres completed the new implementation date will now be Monday, March 30, 2009.

The move comes after the DSA came under pressure from motorcycle riders’ organisation MAG, working alongside organisations representing the rider training industry (MRTA), motorcycle industry (MCIA) and others.

MAG Campaigns Manager, David Short, said “This is a long-overdue victory for common sense and shows the combined voice of all the motorcycle interest groups can bring about real change in official policy.”

Paying tribute to all of the motorcycle organisations who have been working to reverse the cull of motorcycle test centres, Mr Short said:

“In all of my meetings with DSA officials, ministers and Parliamentarians on this subject I have been struck by the willingness of people to work together. However, we have reached a point where the DSA finally had to agree with us that they could not hope to meet national demand for motorcycle tests with just 40 test centres operating on the first day of the new test”.

DSA claim the six-month delay will allow them to find suitable sites in other parts of the country. But with many of its existing test-centres already closed, and many others due to be sold-off, the moratorium may prove embarrassingly inadequate as only a handful of extra sites are due for completion. Finding suitable sites and gaining planning-permission for the super-size test-centres has proven impossible in many parts of the country.

David Short said “I am hopeful that the delay will allow further progress to be made on the development of the ‘casual site’ on the Isle of Wight, which MAG has been campaigning to retain. If this is achieved we will have a model which could be applied throughout the UK”.

MAG has consistently argued that the proposed total of 66 test-centres, a cut of three-out-of-four, will mean riders have to travel unacceptably long distances. Many training businesses face financial ruin and some have already closed as a result of riders opting for residential courses away from home as their only option.

The extended test is required by an EU Directive on rider training, but Britain appears to have given the rules a unique interpretation. MAG is supporting calls for a public inquiry into the handling of the new test arrangements and the strategy of building a small number of Multi Purpose Test Centres.