24 JULY 2002

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VRT testers’ limits being tested

By Mario Schembri Wismayer

The VRT fraternity is up in arms following what would appear to a quantitative misunderstanding over the total number of VRT testing licences to be issued.

VRT test operators, who at the moment are losing more money than they are making, are contending that it the government had originally planned to allow only 20 VRT testing stations. The government, on its part, insists that it had never stipulated a ceiling for the number of VRT testing licences.

However, VRT testers are asking why the government changed its mind about the number of licences to be awarded, saying that the government’s original decision has been ignored and as such there is now no limit to the number of authorised test stations. This state of affairs is having serious repercussions for those investing in the field.

When contacted yesterday by The Malta Financial and Business Times, Transport Minister Censu Galea explained, "When, in 1999 the government invited interested parties to invest in this sector, at no point was it intimated that the number of investors would be limited. With regards to the possibility of negotiating some adjustment, discussions are still underway."

The Malta Financial and Business Times spoke to Ray Cutajar, member of the GRTU’s VRT section on the issue, "From what I’ve heard, yesterday an urgent meeting was held between the minister and Paul Galea, director of traffic. The situation is very precarious; we could go on strike if nothing happens soon. The whole issue revolves around the discrepancy about what had been promised in the white paper and the reality of the situation as it stands today.

"It takes initiative and dedication to enter this field. If we had to be really strict about this, we would paralyse the nation, as we would have to fail about ninety percent of the commercial vehicles and about forty-five percent of the private ones. The government appears to be in an awkward situation because of the looming EU referendum. Just how strictly VRT standards are enforced has a bearing on this issue."

The cost of running a VRT test station is Lm18,520 per annum, while the average income from running such a station is Lm12,099, based on the fact that there are 40 stations sharing a pool of 73,978 testable vehicles, amounting roughly to 1,849 per station.

These figures were prepared by accountants for the GRTU and it would seem patently obvious that some adjustment has to be negotiated to make the test lanes profitable.

Mr Cutajar adds, "The ministry is arguing that it did not want to create a monopoly like that in for the minibuses, taxis and other services, but frankly, I just think that that is just an official reason. I think that the real reason is something else altogether.

"The government neglected to close many loopholes when it came to VRT testing. For example why is it that we can test cars on Saturday, when the government inspector does not work on Saturdays? Why is it that some newly appointed inspectors handed in their resignation within forty-eight hours after being employed?"

The answers to these and other questions being asked by VRT test station operators will hopefully be provided before serious action is taken.

The Malta Financial and Business Times spoke to Ray Cutajar, member of the GRTU’s VRT section on the issue, "From what I’ve heard, yesterday an urgent meeting was held between the minister and Paul Galea, director of traffic. The situation is very precarious; we could go on strike if nothing happens soon. The whole issue revolves around the discrepancy about what had been promised in the white paper and the reality of the situation as it stands today.

"It takes initiative and dedication to enter this field. If we had to be really strict about this, we would paralyse the nation, as we would have to fail about ninety percent of the commercial vehicles and about forty-five percent of the private ones. The government appears to be in an awkward situation because of the looming EU referendum. Just how strictly VRT standards are enforced has a bearing on this issue."

The cost of running a VRT test station is Lm18,520 per annum, while the average income from running such a station is Lm12,099, based on the fact that there are 40 stations sharing a pool of 73,978 testable vehicles, amounting roughly to 1,849 per station.

These figures were prepared by accountants for the GRTU and it would seem patently obvious that some adjustment has to be negotiated to make the test lanes profitable.

Mr Cutajar adds, "The ministry is arguing that it did not want to create a monopoly like that in for the minibuses, taxis and other services, but frankly, I just think that that is just an official reason. I think that the real reason is something else altogether.

"The government neglected to close many loopholes when it came to VRT testing. For example why is it that we can test cars on Saturday, when the government inspector does not work on Saturdays? Why is it that some newly appointed inspectors handed in their resignation within forty-eight hours after being employed?"

The answers to these and other questions being asked by VRT test station operators will hopefully be provided before serious action is taken.

 



Copyright © Network Publications Malta.
Editor: Saviour Balzan
The Business Times, Network House, Vjal ir-Rihan San Gwann SGN 07, Malta
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