Information on average waiting times for NCTs provided to the Oireachtas transport committee recently was “complete and utter rubbish”, a Fianna Fáil TD has claimed.
Committee member James O’Connor strongly criticised the figure of 17.5 days when, he said, testing centres he checked in the meantime were showing much lengthier times, some stretching into next year.
In the first quarter of this year, he said, citing Road Safety Authority (RSA) data, more than 525,000 vehicles were awaiting a test.
“We were told a complete bluff here last week,” he said, referencing the RSA figure. “That was complete and utter rubbish that was brought to this committee last week.”
Rather, he said, waiting times at centres within 1½ hours of his Cork East constituency were reporting a four- to five-month waiting time, with some stretching into next March.
Mr O’Connor, a regular critic of NCT delays, also questioned the 10-year duration of the contract awarded in early 2020 to Applus, which carries out the tests.
RSA chief executive Sam Waide defended his organisation’s oversight of the service, confirming financial penalties of about €3 million had been applied to Applus.
“Yes, the waiting times continue to be unacceptable. I apologise to customers for those,” he said, adding that the number of people currently awaiting a test appointment now stood at 365,000.
Mr Waide noted that the Department of Transport had requested a review of the NCT service contract.
The committee met on Wednesday to discuss various issues around road safety following a recent increase in fatal crashes. As of last Monday, 136 people had died so far this year, 26 more than last year and 37 more than in 2019. This year’s total includes 12 people under the age of 16, and 35 others aged 16-25.
Addressing questions around driver distraction, Assistant Garda Commissioner Paula Hilman, who is responsible for road policing, said gardaí had encountered drivers using mobile phones to watch TV programmes and football matches. However, she said there were technological opportunities available that could assist.
“Other European jurisdictions use their safety cameras to detect people using their mobile phone and not wearing their seat belt,” she said. “That would take a long time [to implement in Ireland], there would need to be consultation, but our current technology actually could do that.”
Mr Waide noted the potential for mobile average speed cameras and said the prospect of geofencing on new and upgraded roads – technology that would automatically limit the speed of cars – was under discussion at European level.
Michael Rowland, the RSA’s director of research, said drink driving appears to have become more socially acceptable. In 2015, he said, 82 per cent of people surveyed felt a majority viewed it as unacceptable, but this had since fallen to 72 per cent.
Prof Denis Cusack, director of the Medical Bureau of Road Safety, said fatalities were rising in other European countries and told the committee that financial investment in cutting speed should be the “big target”.