Responding to the Transport Select Committee's report on the Enforcement Activities of the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency, the Prospect union for professionals called for VOSA to abort its policy of closing down testing stations around the UK (four already announced).
Kevin Warden, Prospect and trade union side secretary for VOSA's 2,700 staff, said the MPs' recommendation that adequate coverage for annual testing should be maintained throughout the UK "flew in the face" of VOSA's current policy.
"An enormous amount of time, effort and money is being spent in trying to persuade industry to open their own test sites so VOSA can close its own network down. This hardly fits with the Ministerial statement in July 2008 that VOSA should have fewer but better test stations."
Warden said that Prospect had warned the committee that smaller operators in distant locations would be seriously inconvenienced by test station closures and the union's evidence had clearly carried weight. But Warden criticised the agency for failing to take up £64m of funding made available by government in 2008 for investing in stations, and instead pursuing "an agenda of closures." He also accused VOSA of planning a two-tier test fee structure, with cheaper tests at private designated premises and authorised testing facilities although it cost more money for VOSA staff to work there, while tests at VOSA's own sites are being made more expensive.
The select committee strongly warned against privatising the entire network of safety testing centres for heavy goods and public service vehicles, on the basis that this could significantly reduce access to testing, particularly in more remote areas of the country.