Northern Ireland’s Infrastructure Minister, Nichola Mallon, has announced that the nation’s Government is to explore the ‘next steps’ towards adopting biennial MOT testing.

Having reviewed evidence submitted by members of the public in an official Call for Evidence, which ran from August to October 2021, Mallon said that the idea had received enough support to be considered more formally by the Government.

Currently, the MOT testing rules in Northern Ireland are similar to those enforced in England, Wales and Scotland; private cars and motorcycles are first tested when they reach four years old, and annually after that.

Light goods vehicles weighing under 3,500kg, meanwhile, are first tested after three years.

If the planned shake-up goes ahead, all of these vehicles will only need to be tested every other year.

“As anticipated, a variety of views were expressed through this consultation exercise and there is clear support for biennial testing for younger private cars,” the Minister said.

“Given the high volume of interest and the support for biennial MOT testing, I believe there is sufficient evidence to explore the next steps on a move to a biennial testing regime.

“I have now asked my officials to engage with the main Civil Service Trade Unions and staff and with key stakeholders, including the PSNI, automotive industry and the insurance industry and to commence work for a public consultation. Any move to biennial testing will require new legislation in the new mandate.”

Industry reaction

1,224 responses were received and, although most were supportive of the plans, some organisations have warned that biennial MOT testing could negatively impact road safety.

The Chief Executive of the Independent Garage Association, Stuart James, commented: “It is interesting to read that while 85% of individual respondents are in favour of introducing biennial testing for private cars, most did not provide a reason for this support and believe that it would have no impact on road safety.

“The UK Government has proposed changing the period before a car’s first MOT test to four years on two previous occasions, and plans were scrapped both times for being too dangerous.

“Statistics show that around one in five vehicles currently do not meet minimum safety standards at any one time in NI.

“If the time between MOT tests was extended, more unsafe vehicles would inevitably be on the road.

“Safety should always come first and if biennial testing was approved in NI it would set a dangerous precedent for the rest of the UK.”

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