Parliamentary Committee backs MAG concerns over DSA ‘It will take a long time and much resource to mend what has been broken, but the Government and DSA now need to take urgent action…’ That is one of the less damning conclusions reached by a watchdog committee of MPs investigating the catastrophic implementation of the new test.

In its 145 page report on the ‘bungled’ implementation of the new biketest, The House of Commons Transport Select Committee quotes evidence submitted by MAG no less than seven times. MAG was by no means a lone voice, riding instructors, motorcycle businesses, test candidates and experienced riders alike responded in large numbers. The MPs’ said that the evidence they received was ‘predominantly critical’ of the new test and the way DSA implemented it and, for the most part, they agreed with those criticisms.

The official report reveals that the British Government did not vote in favour of the new rules when they were debated in Brussels, because it did not believe any benefits would justify the cost. But it was the UK Government itself that then ‘failed to apply common sense and work flexibly’, instead setting-off a series of events that increased the cost and complexity of the new test beyond anything Europe required. The Committee finds the resulting test arrangements to be ‘both inconvenient and confusing for candidates’.

First, the Government failed to request that UK riders be tested at the UK urban speed limit, instead of the higher European norm. The Committee labels this ‘bizarre’, saying it is ‘unacceptable’ that the Minister could not offer a satisfactory explanation for limiting the options available to future Governments in this way.

Second, the Government allowed DSA to embark on a multi-million pound building spree which other countries have managed to avoid. Replacing hundreds of existing test centres with just a few dozen super centres ‘caused significant cost and inconvenience to test candidates and trainers, with little apparent gain’ say the MPs.

Agreeing with MAG’s long held position, the Committee describes the justification for these Multi Purpose Test Centres as ‘weak’ and the implementation ‘inept’. DSA’s failure to provide more than 44 of the 66 MPTCs they promised meant they had to modify the test so it could be taken on smaller sites. The Committee says this ‘undermined the case for MPTCs in the first place’ and that it had ‘severely damaged the trust of the motorcycling community in the DSA’, as did the DSA’s failure to rectify other problems…‘Such experiences damage trust and mutual respect, and the DSA cannot afford to let the current situation run for long.’

The MPs say the DSA should amend the test ‘as soon as possible’ because it prevents riders from adapting to weather, road and other conditions that affect stopping distances. MAG told the DSA this was needed during the first week of the new test, but DSA has done little more than sit it on its corporate hands and hope for the best.

MAG also raised concerns that the injury caused by reducing the number of test centres was compounded by the insult of hiking the test price by 50% compared to the old test. The Transport Committee agrees that there must now be an emphasis on customer convenience and value for money MAG has made strong representations over many months on these issues, not only to the Committee but directly to Ministers and DSA senior management. While DSA refused to accept the validity of our concerns (their approach is described in the report as ‘dogmatic’), MAG’s continued efforts are vindicated by the Committee refusing to accept their blandishments as easily as Ministers have.

Other issues raised by MAG are also supported by the MPs:

Given that the majority of motorcycle crashes involve the actions of another road user, MAG has been pushing for Government policy on motorcycle safety to focus more in this area. Again, the Committee has followed that lead, saying ‘The development of better awareness of motorcyclists among other road users is crucial to the improvement of motorcycle safety.’

The Department for Transport must start to collect adequate data about rider training and testing, so that future training and testing decisions are based on solid evidence they say.

Ultimately, the Committee supports the Government in its decision to do more than the Directive requires for testing new riders’ ability. But their condemnation of the DSA’s continued mishandling of the new test arrangements lends weight to MAG’s proposal, laid-out in the Committee’s report, to break-up the DSA monopoly over all aspects of training and testing.

One thing everyone is agreed on; lessons must be learned before the government legislates implementation of the Third European Driving Licence Directive, soon after the General Election. MAG’s partners in the Riders Are Voters campaign are combining their efforts to reverse another potentially catastrophic situation.

This is the result of months of work by many people and I for one, shall be having an ale tonight!