Car testing: NCT not available for rest of the year

MOTORISTS trying to book online National Car Tests (NCTs) are being told there are no appointments available for the rest of the year in some centres.

The introduction of five penalty points for failing to have a valid NCT cert sparked a surge of bookings at test centres across the country, collapsing the online service and causing lenghty waiting times.

Now, while NCT management say there are no problems getting a relatively close test date, the NCT website is saying there is nothing available for the rest of 2009 in a number of centres.

In others, November and December are the earliest booking times available.

Of 10 randomly chosen centres, including three in Dublin, half – Fonthill, Ballymun, Drogheda, Galway and Arklow – had no appointments at all available for the rest of the year.

Of the others, Deansgrange had just one slot open in August, Limerick had 28 in August and four in December, Naas had 38 in December, Waterford had 12 from September to December and Ennis had 104 in November and 21 in December.

Despite the considerable difference between locations and the seeming impossibility of booking a car test in Dublin this year, NCT management said there are no more problems with tailbacks of people waiting. "We normally wouldn't be booking that far in advance; it's because of the penalty points system," said a spokeswoman.

"There isn't a problem in any of the centres there at the moment. We will say: ring back if you want and we will get you an earlier one or else we will put you on a priority list."

She said while the NCT automatically books drivers ahead to the closest date on its computer system, there are earlier times available for those who want them.

The system was over-subscribed after the announcement of penalty points in May.

"You would have had a lot of people out there who wouldn't have been compliant; then when the penalty point system was announced you had all of them and the people who are normally compliant calling in," the spokeswoman said.

While many motorists are satisfied gardaí will not prosecute them if they produce an appointment letter for an NCT inspection, the force still has the authority to do so.

But a garda source said: "As long as you have a letter and you can prove that you made some sort of effort I think that is fine."