New licensees more than halved after the two part test came in, but they are gradually recovering. 2012 should be up again as word gets out and people cram their tests in, same as they did in 2008 before the 2 part test.
And the current lot of clowns at the DSA aren't been given a free reign. Penning has already made Mod 1 a bit more sensible, has stuck 2 fingers up at Brussels by allowing 48kph on the speed checks, and is pushing to get back to a single on-road test by the time the 3DLD categories come in.
I hear you about having to get new test bikes, but come on, this Directive is 6 years old, it can hardly have come as a surprise. Nearly all new 600cc+ bikes are more than sufficient for the new A test, and an SV650 costs £4450 right now before haggling (I wonder what you could get a Hyosung or a nearly new Suzuki for?).
What the DSA need to clear up urgently is whether A2 test bikes will need to be under 35kW, or whether 40kW+ A bikes can be used for both A and A2 tests.
>"How about... make the CBT into the test?"
I'm pretty sure that's the intention of the 3DLD. It doesn't make any mention of provisional or learner driving or riding, and I suspect that the days of solo L riding are numbered. It might take a court case against the Crown for letting Little Dead Johnny ride with a non-3DLD license, but it'll come.
It'll be interesting to see if anyone bothers getting the new A1 license - I can't see any more point to it than the current one, if we're going to give "direct access" to A2 at 19 anyway.