One driver trying to get an appointment was stunned when he was offered either 2.55am or 3.45am next Wednesday at the Deansgrange Centre in south Dublin.
A huge backlog of motorists waiting for tests has built up since on-the-spot fines and penalty points were introduced for drivers without a certificate last December. An NCT spokeswoman confirmed to the Sunday World that 24-hour testing was being introduced in Dublin and Cork from tomorrow to cut the waiting lists.
Two test centres in Dublin will be offering the service in alternative weeks, first Deansgrange and then North Point, Ballymun.
In Cork, 24-hour testing will be available at the NCT centre in the Euro Business Park, Little Island.
“The 24-hour testing will last as long as the demand is there,” said the NCT spokeswoman. “There has been a great uptake and we have taken a lot of bookings.
“There has been a huge demand in Cork and it is fully booked for next week.”
She said Dublin was not completely booked, but not many time slots remained.
“The new times suit a lot of people who are just not available from 8am to 10pm, which are our normal opening hours. A lot of people are driving during the night and this appeals to them.”
The average waiting time for an NCT test nationally was 14 days, but the spokeswoman said she had no figures for Dublin and Cork, where demand is greatest. In the capital, motorists have had to wait weeks – and in some cases months – for a test.
From May 1, 2009, it was an offence not to have a valid NCT certificate while driving a car, but penalty points were only given if the case came to court. On December 8, driving without a certificate became a fixed charge offence carrying three penalty points.
Following the announcement by transport minister Paschal Donohoe, demand for tests became so intense that drivers were told they could book up to three months in advance without affecting the length of the certificate. The Road Safety Authority also hired an extra 50 testers.
Hundreds of drivers have been given free tests as they could not get an appointment within a four-week limit and the Gardai have taken the backlog into account while enforcing the new law.
“If someone can show they have an NCT booked, it’s unlikely they are going to get penalty points,” said a Garda spokesman.