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Blog of events happening to and around Lightning Motorcycle Training in 2009

DECEMBER 2009 - The normal excitement as we head into Christmas was tempered somewhat by two things. Firstly the unwelcome arrival of snow and secondly the simply staggering number of tests that have been cancelled due to bad weather. Some students have now been cancelled for snow, ice, winds, leaves and standing water. Was any thought given to this during the construction of the MPTC's, well yes it was mentioned and vague promises made but nothing has actually been done. In these somewhat austere times a greater willingness to engage with reality would not go amiss! Come on DSA get a grip.

 

NOVEMBER 2009 - We have introduced a Winter Discount Scheme which has generated far more business than we expected making this a busy month. This month has seen the unwelcome arrival of the Department for Transport's (DfT) Consultation paper on the Third Driving Licence Directive (3DLD). As we are still living with the horrors of 2DLD this has hardly been greeted with open arms. Particularly when it runs to a staggering 53 pages. The questions are contradictory and incomplete in some cases and it is very hard to answer some of the questions as it is not clear what you are answering. Quite rightly the Motor Cycle Industry Association (MCIA) have called on the paper to be redrafted.

OCTOBER 2009 - an unexpectedly busy month which was helped by mild weather. The only drama was the test centre went from 5 days a week to 3 days, so some lucky students got to ride to foreign fields like Farnborough and Swindon. However, it has been an excellent month for pass rates. The benefit of having large training areas is really starting to show and we are very much into our stride with delivering the new test. Thank you to all those that have worked so hard this month, particularly the back bone of Ben, Jonathan, Michael, Lee, Steve and Gordon. This month has also seen the welcome return of Mat Sparrow doing part time work, and the useful addition of Nik Moore as a contract instructor.

SEPTEMBER 2009 - It is a bit dreary to moan all the time however the DSA have excelled themselves this month. Having spent millions of pounds on a new booking system we find it is absolutely not fit for purpose. One of the basic tenets of a booking system is that it should not be possible to book two people onto one place; and yet brilliantly this is what the DSA have managed. Did anyone think to trial the new system (or at least keep the old one up and running until any teething problems had been ironed out) - apparently not. The other issue has been the inability to speak to anyone on the 'phone. When asked on You and Yours (Radio 4) Brian Gilhooley said this was a short term problem in July caused by a high call volume after the introduction of the new system. The You and Yours reporter then pointed out that on the day of the program (late September) they had tried calling 24 times and only got through 3 times - Mr Gilhooley didn't have much of a reply.

Equally brilliant has been the new radios introduced by the DSA which (according to local examiners) have not been trialled prior to use in the field. Turns out that rather than having their own channel like the old ones they are on a licence free channel shared by taxis, child alarms and training schools! The new radios have been introduced to save money (which is a good thing) however as the examiner won't use them and is instead using an old set in a hire car the net result has been an extra £40 a day for car rental. One step forward - two steps backwards.

AUGUST 2009 - Despite much whingeing from training schools (and rightly so) the DSA are set to increase the test fees from October 5th 2009 making Module 1 £15.50 and Module 2 £75.00. Interesting to see that in space of 13 months the test fee has managed to rise from £60.00 to £90.50 (an increase of over 50%) during a period of historically low inflation. However, they assure us this was always the plan and that no one should feel ripped off.

After a huge amount of effort we now have a new centre up and running in Swindon, Wiltshire. This operates on the same basis as the other two centres and we are hoping to have a similar level of success.

JULY 2009 - Oh joy of joys the government has agreed to a Transport Select Committee to look into the DSA's handling of the introduction of the new motorcycle test. So we look forward to finding out how the DSA's budget of £70m for 66 MPTC's was turned into 44 MPTC's. Not to mention all the other issues like availability, distances travelled and so on.

JUNE 2009 - Horror stories unhelpfully printed in the motorcycle press finally seemed to have died out and the new test is now well bedded in. The DSA are still being coy about releasing accident data, but it would appear to be not much worse than it was for the old test. The sunny weather is extremely welcome and is certainly a nice distraction from the gloom of Swine Flu, recession, and unemployment.

MAY 2009 - The first full month of the new test and no real dramas to report, apart from the odd parked car on the test centre! The DSA in their wisdom have decided not to run to the expense of putting up a sign telling people not to park there during week days, preferring instead to waste public money in cancelled tests. However, credit where credit is due they did at least sort out a test centre and the availability for tests has been reasonable, and you can't ask for more than that.

APRIL 2009 - Very busy this month with all the old tests and preparing for the new test. Both our sites are large enough to lay out full Module 1 tests; and with the timing equipment we have we are very well prepared for this. Happily this was proved on the first day when all our students passed the Module 1 - hurrah! Less special has been the parked cars and rubbish on the test centre; although to be fair to the DSA they have given us two of the nicest and most helpful examiners, and they have been addressing the teething problems. So we have been spared some of the horror stories from the press. To reflect the test changes we have altered how our courses are structured, but we have managed to keep the price the same. So far, so good.

We have found a new site for Swindon and are going through the process of getting approved. Hopefully in time for about July/August.

MARCH 2009 - Charge! It is the last hurrah for the old test and despite economic gloom we have had our busiest March ever by nearly 100%. It would have been even nicer if winter hadn't clung on for so long. Everyone worked their socks off this month. Our attempts to open another centre in Swindon took a bit of a set back as the DSA scotched it at the last moment. However, we have other sites in Swindon in the offing so we should have something up and running by the summer.

FEBRUARY 2009 - Blimey never had so many people had so many tests cancelled! One person had four tests cancelled due to bad weather. We faired pretty well as the days it was awful in Oxford it was okay in Reading and visa versa, so mostly we got by with only a few days cancelled. Which was just as well as we were busy. Welcome to Duncan Howard and Mark Rowe who have joined to help out with the rush and well done to Steve Smith and Gordon Holloway who are both DAS qualified.

JANUARY 2009 - Welcome to 2009, our tenth January and despite a horribly cold winter and gloomy recession this has been our busiest start to the year ever. January ended with us 40% up on last year, which all things considered is fantastic news. A big well done to Steve Smith who has passed his Cardington Supervisory Grade for CBT.

The DSA have announced the findings of their consultation and as expected it is a two part test. This means that students will take the fifteen minute "Module 1" test off-road test on one occasion and then return to take the "Module 2" forty minute on-road test on a separate date. If students fail the "Module 1" they will not be able to take the "Module 2".

The pricing structure for the new test is bizarre to say the least and is clearly an attempt to pull a flanker at a later date - i.e. put the test fee up. Module 1 will cost £10.00 and Module 2 will cost £70.00. This does rather beg the question as to why everyone has been paying £80.00 for something that clearly the DSA feel they can do for £70.00 after 24th April. In the words of John Lydon "Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?". Yup, and some. Look elsewhere on this website for full details of the new test. The final nail in the coffin is that the DSA have announced that the test fee is set to rise in October 2009 to £90.00 overall - this really is an outrage as all the extra costs have been as a consequence of the DSA's failures.

When the weather allowed we have been out practising for the new Module 1 test at Swindon MPTC. We are very confident we can deliver this easily and that our students will be well prepared when they take the test.