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Government Select Committee on Transport latest report

There are a couple of interesting points in the latest report of the Government Select Committee on Transport which has just been published. You can find it here:

It starts predictably enough with a measure of concern about the recently published 2011 casualty figures which have risen, and suggests that “the Government should provide an explanation for these increases and reassurance that this does not mark the beginning of a worrying trend in road deaths”. Tough ask.

There’s a fair amount of waffle in the summary about the government change from setting casualty reduction targets to “an action plan and outcomes framework, which consist of a number of indicators which will be measured, and a set of casualty forecasts”. The report explains that “localism is a key theme of the Government’s strategy” and that “decentralising power and funding will allow local authorities to be more flexible and innovative in tackling road safety”. But at the same time the committee notes that they “have found considerable variation amongst local authorities in their performance on road safety. Whilst there are examples of good practice, there are cases in which local authorities have not improved their road safety performance in recent years at all.”

They conclude: “Stronger leadership and a clearer vision are required from Government to communicate the importance of road safety to local decision makers”. Or in other words, you can have localism so long as what’s done at a local level follows a national strategy.

Clear as mud, then.

Here’s what they have to say about motorcycling:

——————————– 6 Motorcycle safety

Report on the new European motorcycle test

41. In March 2010 our predecessor Committee published its report into the new European motorcycle test, which changed the way in which motorcycle driver competence was assessed in the UK. There were numerous criticisms of these new arrangements, particularly the decision to move part of the test off-road. As a result, the Government initiated a review of the test in June 2010, with a view to redesigning the test once more.[118] This revised test may be implemented in some areas from next year.[119] It will involve candidates moving back on-road for their test and as a result a number of the off-road test centres developed for the European test will be redundant.[120] The capital cost of these centres was £71 million.[121]

42. We encountered real concerns that lessons had not been learnt from this debacle. The Motor Cycle Industry Association warned that the same problems could arise with future European directives without proper evaluation of this “mess, complication and bureaucracy”.[122] Given the long-running difficulties experienced by the department in producing a clear and coherent strategy for motorcycle training, we recommend that the DfT should, in its reply to this report, explain what lessons it has learnt from this episode and how it will go about implementing future European directives on the subject of driver or rider training without undue delay.

Government response

43. We have not yet received a response from the Government to the 2010 report. This is despite assurances from Mr Penning that the DfT would produce the response “as soon as we can”[123] or even “before the recess”.[124] The department has provided some information about its progress in this area.[125] We are prepared to wait for a formal response to this report until the Government’s policy is finally decided, but in the meantime, we recommend that the department write to us on a quarterly basis to explain progress in this area. ——————————–

An interesting phrase used in that statement is that “This revised test may be implemented IN SOME AREAS from next year and as a result A NUMBER of the off-road test centres developed for the European test will be redundant”.

The implication of that is to confirm what I’ve been suggesting for some time – that in SPECIFIC areas (almost certainly those remote from the existing MPTCs), the DSA will receive dispensation to set up the Module One exercises out on the public road, but that in OTHER locations the MPTCs will be retained.

As I’ve said before, it was becoming increasingly difficult to find safe space in urban centres to perform the pre-existing U turn and emergency stop out on the roads, so in my mind there is no doubt that moving to off-road testing was definitely needed, as was a long overdue upgrade to DSA test facilities in general – the lack of toilet and proper parking facilities for candidates has been appalling for a long time.

So whether they get to close down any of the MPTCs that have been constructed is a moot point – I’m sure the DSA will fight tooth and nail to keep those that have been opened, and I’m not convinced that as motorcyclists we should be saying “I told you so” and supporting closure of the MPTCs – the more complicated test routine to be introduced in just a few months will put even more demand on the DSA’s test facilities.

The need for updated and upgraded facilities was never really the question, it was the DSA riding roughshod over the very genuine concerns of the motorcycle training industry in general that was the issue. Whether there is some light at the end of the tunnel and the DSA will be forced to be more flexible in future is a moot point.

Whatever happens on Mod One and exactly how the DSA plan to compromise on running the exercises on road, the fact it’s now nearly August and trainers still don’t have a full list of exactly which bikes are suitable test machines for the upcoming changes in January is appalling.

What are the odds that the DSA will have to put back the introduction date for the new licensing structure? I’d rate them as quite high.

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