An initiative to use IT to crack down on the number of dangerous vehicles on British roads will finally begin trials next spring, more than a year later than planned.
But after 10 years of planning and three years of software development, the project to develop a computerised MOT system won't be rolled out nationally until late 2004, nearly two years late.
In February this year, the government conceded that the project had already run £4m over budget, but failed to acknowledge that it was also a month late.
Contractor Siemens Business Services (SBS) blamed the delays on the complexity of developing a bespoke solution.
"We believe it is essential that we get it right first time at launch," an SBS spokeswoman told vnunet.com.
"With this in mind we have taken time, commitment and innovation to provide a solution that will benefit the end customer as much as possible."
But the choice of SBS for the £230m contract was controversial when it was made in 2000.
At the time, SBS had faced a barrage of criticism over the introduction of new computer systems at the Passport Agency. Problems with the systems delayed the issuing of passports, costing taxpayers £12.6m.
From next spring, the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (Vosa), formerly the Vehicle Inspectorate, will trial the computerised MOT system across 45 garages in Bristol, Leicester and Sheffield.
A national rollout covering all 18,500 MOT centres is set for some time in late 2004.
SBS will install a computer, monitor and printer into the vehicle testing stations, and individual smartcards will be provided for each user of the system.
The MOT details will then be sent by a secure internet connection to the central MOT database, run by SBS.
Initial trials will run alongside the current paper-based system, but Vosa hopes that the new method will spell the end of the MOT certificate.
"It's going to help us cut down on the number of forged certificates, as well as improve the administration of the scheme," said Garry York, benefits delivery manager, MOT computerisation, at Vosa.
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