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The waiting lists for an NCT are ridiculously long at the moment...

And it’s all because of penalty points. Hang about though, it might not all be bad news…

Image: Shutterstock/CebotariN

WHAT IS GOING on with the waiting lists for an NCT in Ireland right now?

For those of you who haven’t applied lately, the average wait for a test appears to be about three months (NCTS were not willing to confirm their waiting lists for this article – read into that what you will), and is often even longer regardless of whether you apply in advance of your test falling due or not. This in a situation where any car over four years old  (i.e. most) needs to be tested once every two years, with cars ten years and older tested annually.

The reason is fairly simple – since the imposition of 3 penalty points (and a fixed charge of €60 to boot) for those without a valid NCT cert became law on 8 December last year, queues at the 47 testing centres nationwide (and particularly in Dublin) have gone through the roof.

At any one time over 200,000 cars on Irish roads have expired NCT discs according to the Road Safety Authority (RSA).

It seems a lot of people who weren’t too bothered about getting an NCT before have taken the nation’s collective safety to heart once the gardaí got involved.

NCT

There’s something very, very Irish about a law being put in place to enhance safety having the unforeseen side effect of completely crashing the system already in place, but anyway.

TheJournal.ie has spoken to several people who have applied (in Dublin) up to two months in advance of their cert expiring, all of whom won’t be tested until long after their cert’s expiry – one person was given a June test date, having applied in February for a test due in April.

Others who persisted with trying for an appointment (when a test can’t be provided in time for a cert’s expiry NCTS are sending a text to the people in question, the idea being it can be shown to any suspicious gardaí who might be lurking about to help their cause), saw completely arbitrary results – some were given dates in a matter of weeks, others were made to wait much longer.

So what’s being done about the situation? Well, certain centres are operating 24 hours a day, while more inspectors (580) are working than every before. That’s all well and good but obviously the hours between 10pm and 6am aren’t particularly useful to most people – one person we spoke to was offered a timeslot of anytime between ’12 midnight and 4am’ – an offer he was happy to refuse.

It all feels a little counter-intuitive to be honest.

Sinéad McKeon, spokesperson for NCTS, assures TheJournal.ie that all wait times are a product of the fact that ’77% of vehicles are registered in the first six months of the year’, meaning that’s when their tests fall due.

ncts delays Source: NCTS

“Most customers receive tests within 28 days of their initial application,” she claims, which is contrary to most of the first-hand accounts we have encountered.

The availability of appointments on the NCTS website is not a reflection of the total number of slots available to customers, the call centre should be contacted in the event something suitable isn’t available.

McKeon similarly claims that the introduction of fixed charge penalty points has seen a ’100% increase in compliance’, which is certainly a good thing, although it begs the question as to how many un-roadworthy cars were running around the country prior to penalty points being brought in.

So it doesn’t seem much more can be done about the waiting lists – but what of the elephant in the room – are gardaí likely to apply penalty points to people who are being made wait for an appointment?

It seems the answer is ‘it’s possible, but not probable’.

A garda spokesperson told TheJournal.ie: “Although all eligible cars are required to display a valid NCT Disc each traffic stop is dealt with on a case by case basis.”

Nóirín O'Sullivan Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan Source: Photocall

Motorists with expired NCT certificates are advised to (a) be in a position to demonstrate to the Garda that the car is booked in for an NCT, and  (b) Make sure their car is fully roadworthy.
The general advice to those with eligible cars is to book early and in urgent cases contact NCTS directly.

So it sounds like a fairly common-sense approach is in place.

Northpoint one NCT centre at Northpoint, Ballymun

To end on a happy note though, there’s one source of comfort if you’re being made wait silly amounts of time for a test. If you go over four weeks without an appointment you get the test for free (a saving of €55), a happy surprise for one delighted punter who told TheJournal.ie of his good fortune after being made wait 10 weeks for an appointment at Dublin’s Ballymun centre.

And that isn’t even arbitrary – it’s in the NCT’s own charter. So be sure you insist upon it.

Read: 9 typically Irish driving problems every motorist knows too well

Read: Stolen NCT certs from armed holdup in 2013 still in circulation

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