Select Committee on Merits of Statutory Instruments Twenty-Ninth Report


Further information from the Department for Transport

1. These Regulations defer by 6 months the implementation of previous Regulations, the Motor Vehicles (Driving Licences) (Amendment) Regulations 2008 (SI 2008/508) which aimed to transpose EC Directives: 2000/56/EC and 2008/65 and introduce new and more demanding manoeuvres to the motorcycle driving test by 29 September 2008.


2. In October 2000 the European Commission adopted Directive 2000/56/EC that introduced higher standards for all driving tests. Implementation of the Directive was originally required by 2005, but the Commission agreed a deferment until 29 September 2008 (confirmed by Directive 2008/65/EC) because of implementation difficulties faced by some Member States.

3. One of the higher standards introduced by the Directive was to require all motorcycle riders undertaking practical tests to carry out more demanding specified manoeuvres. The Directive, at Annex II, point 11 allowed each Member State to assess the manoeuvres on a "special testing ground".

4. To determine whether a "special testing ground" was necessary, the Driving Standards Agency (DSA) trialled the specified manoeuvres at its Driving Examiner training centre at Cardington in conjunction with riders of all abilities from within the motorcycling community (including disabled riders). Following the trials there was general agreement that the manoeuvres needed to be carried out on special testing grounds for safety reasons. The risk to the rider of a serious injury if the manoeuvres were carried out on-road was considered to be too great. It was also thought that the learner rider, if carrying out the manoeuvres on-road, might also present a significant safety risk to other road users.

5. The results of the trials informed the subsequent public consultation to assess the opinions of a wider audience including the motorcycle community, emergency services, road safety interests, courts and the public at large. The response to consultation concluded that the manoeuvres should be carried out off-road on a special testing ground.

6. The Agency did not have a suitable estate to conduct the manoeuvres off-road. It realised it would need to embark upon an ambitious programme to acquire the necessary estate. To make the programme cost effective, it was decided that the new test centres would be multi-purpose, offering enhanced services for candidates undertaking other categories of driving test. It was also seen as an opportunity to update an existing estate that offered poor facilities for learners and to provide better facilities for disabled drivers and riders in line with Disability Discrimination Act 1995 requirements.

7. DSA sought to provide a national network of about 66 Multi-Purpose Test Centres (MPTCs), which would deliver approximately 83% service coverage within a 45 minute / 20 mile 'travel to test' distance. Sixty-six sites would also mean that 96% of the population would fall within 60 minutes travel time and 99.5% within 90 minutes.

8. However, the Agency encountered numerous problems in seeking to acquire the necessary estate. On many occasions, DSA were refused planning permission after spending considerable time going through the planning process. Sometimes they identified suitable sites but had to withdraw because the cost became too expensive once it was known a Government department wished to make the purchase. They also identified sites where the cost of remediation was too expensive. In addition, although a site may have been ideal for conducting the new motorcycling test manoeuvres, the surrounding area may not have been suitable for on-road testing, for example, lacking different road types (urban/rural), traffic signals, roundabouts, bends, pedestrian crossings, etc.

Decision to Defer

9. Because of the difficulties in acquiring suitable and sufficient estate, DSA received representations from the motorcycling community requesting deferment of the new motorcycling test. By August 2008, it had become clear that only 38 of the planned MPTCs would be operational by 29 September. Some motorcycling test candidates would have faced lengthy journeys (over 100 miles in some cases) to take their practical riding test with consequential road safety concerns. On 3 September Jim Fitzpatrick (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport) met with representatives of Motor Cycle Industry Association, Motorcycle Rider Training Association, and Harley Davidson Riders Edge. Their concerns largely centred on the number and location of the MPTCs.

10. Having taken account of the views expressed, it was agreed that the Agency should defer implementation of the test for a period of 6 months (until 30 March 2009). Currently there are 38 operational MPTCs, but by the beginning of April 2009, it is expected, to bring an additional 5 to 6 MPTCs into operation and some additional temporary provision is being explored. DSA currently forecast that 44 full MPTCs will be operational by 30 March 2009; which will result in 63% of the population of Great Britain being within 45 minutes of an MPTC; 83% within 60 minutes; and 97% within 90 minutes. In addition, the Agency will provide weekend testing only from up to 14 part-time VOSA sites and additional mid-week testing from up to 4 casual-hire sites; together, these sites will bring overall population coverage to: 86% within 45 minutes; 95% within 60 minutes; and 99% within 90 minutes. Although this is below the target of 66 sites, DSA believe that these measures will enable them to provide a satisfactory level of coverage although work will continues towards securing full test centre coverage at the earliest opportunity.

11. The European Commission has been informed and has accepted that the UK is not seeking to avoid implementation of the Directive, but merely defer implementation for a short period of time.

October 2008

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