The launch of the computerised MOT system has been marred by complaints from the motor industry that they have been left in the dark over system failures.
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Built by Siemens Business Services as part of a private finance initiative, the £220m computerised testing system allows garage staff to record MOT results on terminals linked to a central mainframe.
The roll out of the system to more than 18,000 vehicle testing stations in the UK commenced on 18 April 2005 and was completed on 31 March this year. It was officially launched last Friday. More than 16 million tests have been successfully recorded on the system, Siemens said.
However, Ian Davis Knight, head of the Retail Motor Industry Federation's (RMIF) MOT Technical Operations Team, said MOT garages had been kept in the dark about poor system performance. "Immediate steps must be taken to improve the new system and associated support procedures before customer and trade confidence hits rock bottom," he said.
Davis Knight added that two partial collapses of the system in two weeks in March had left many MOT testing stations unable to perform tests, causing considerable loss to their businesses and inconvenience to their customers.
A Siemens spokesman said, "A great deal of effort went into resolving such difficulties as they occurred and, in a relatively short space of time, things settled down and positive feedback was received from users."
The government's Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (Vosa) has told the RMIF that the number of stations affected was minimal on each occasion, but this did not tally with the large number of calls the federation had received from its members, Davis Knight said. The RMIF is now surveying its members on the issue.
Siemens has established two mainframe systems in Blackpool which hold the central database. Vehicle testing stations and Vosa are connected to this central database, which holds vehicle information, test results and details of authorised examiners and testers in a smart-card-secured system.