The Road Safety Authority has said no customer was allocated a free NCT test last year, despite a promise in the NCT customer charter that tests would be provided free of charge where an appointment cannot be offered within a 28-day period.

The current average wait time for a test is 29 days, but many drivers have reported waiting several months for a test at some locations.

The NCT customer charter states that drivers who cannot be offered an appointment within a 28-day period will be provided with a free test except in certain circumstances.

These include where a test is overdue by more than seven days at the time of contacting the NCT, or where an appointment was offered seven days or more prior to the test due date, or if the driver has made specific requests regarding suitable days, times or dates.

The charter states that free tests will not be provided where drivers failed to attend an appointment, or where they have previously accepted or requested an appointment outside of the 28-day period.

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The promise of free tests was highlighted online by the Road Safety group PARC.

The Road Safety Authority, which has responsibility for the National Car Testing Service, told RTÉ's This Week programme that there were no free tests allocated to customers during 2022.

It said: "Due to the excessive impact of Covid-19 on staff absenteeism, customer cancellations and no shows, the requirement to provide free tests for customers was relaxed for some time.

"However, the vast majority of customers continued to receive an appointment within 4-5 weeks of application.

"Additionally, during this difficult and unprecedented time, NCTS did not apply cancellation charges to customers who had to cancel an appointment at short notice due to Covid-19."

The Road Safety Authority said the requirement to provide free tests in line with the customer charter was reintroduced in October 2022.

"The free test is automatically applied by the contractor and the full cost of free tests is borne by the contractor, Applus+," the authority stated.

James O'Connor, Fianna Fáil spokesperson on transport and member of the Oireachtas Transport Committee, has said that the NCT must honour free tests.

Speaking on This Week, Mr O'Connor said the situation was "completely and utterly unacceptable" and deserves immediate scrutiny.

He said it was incredibly serious and there were difficult questions that now need to be answered by the operator Applus+ and RSA.

"What we need to see is a fair and equitable system, and people being given the nearest available date is the day they want to apply. Releasing them (dates) in blocks is causing complications with the system," Mr O'Connor said.