Driving instructor slams lengthy wait to take tests

By Julie McNicholls Vale   |   Deputy news editor   |
Sunday 6th February 2022 1:00 pm
@JulieCambrian
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Driving instructor Steve Jones

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DRIVING instructors have spoken of their frustration at students still not being able to book a driving test in the area.

Steve Jones of Dragon Drive School of Motoring in Pwllheli said the system is broken, with some people having to wait up to 10 months to take their test locally, adding that there are a number of issues including a shortage of driving examiners.

He is sympathetic to claims that a backlog has been caused by the pandemic, but says there were issues booking a test before Covid-19.

“The issue is being highlighted now because there’s a backlog caused by the pandemic, but there were problems before,” Mr Jones told the Cambrian News.

“And it’s not just here, there are problems all over, in Bangor and Bala and elsewhere.

“Unless you can get a cancellation, people are waiting eight, nine, 10 months for a test. Youngsters have had a difficult two years with the pandemic and in rural areas really rely on being able to drive.

“They are going to miss out on life and on jobs if they can’t pass their tests soon. It’s not like living in a city where there’s more public transport.”

Mr Jones said the DVSA emailed to say they are working hard to get more examiners and have taken on more people to answer calls from people trying to book a test. But on Tuesday morning Mr Jones said problems trying to book a test remain.

“I’ve been on the phone for ages” he said, “and it was only in December that they put a call-out for more examiners in the area. They will need to be trained so it will be months before we see them here.

“Three of my students booked their tests in Welshpool, Aberystwyth and Cardigan and all of them failed. They are having to travel miles away to take tests on streets they don’t know. The system is not working.”

Mr Jones has also criticised the system for releasing cancellations via an app students must pay to download.

“They should be going to people waiting months for their test, not to whoever can pay for an app,” he added.

Tywyn driving instructor Darren Swift, of Swiftpass, said: “Many of my pupils have experienced delays in waiting for a date for their test; at the moment the earliest available tests in Aberystwyth are May and tests in Bala are non-existent. It means pupils have to spend more on lessons just to stay current and waiting lists for lessons then increase.

“I have pupils contacting me who are prepared to travel from Barmouth, Dolgellau, Machynlleth and even Bala just for lessons as all driving instructors are so busy. We can’t blame the examiners at the test centres, it’s the DVSA who have been very poor in reacting to the situation.”

Rob Jones of Llyn Driving School said: “Personally, I believe that until this crisis is brought under control the booking of driving tests should be restricted to Approved Driving Instructors only.

“That way, only candidates who are considered test ready are able to book the tests. That way, I believe that we would see a higher rate of test passes that would leave fewer candidates having to rebook a second or third test and actually help to shorten the waiting list for tests.

“From a local point of view, I’m not sure if the DVSA realise how important Pwllheli test centre is to the surrounding area.

“From the furthest reaches of the Llyn Peninsula it would take a candidate approximately a two hour rural drive to get to the next nearest test centre in Bangor or Bala.

“We also have a college here which brings a large catchment of learner drivers to our area for tuition, this also affects them as many arrange lessons during their free periods in the area that they will hope to sit their tests.

“Hopefully, now that Covid restrictions are being eased, more resources may be afforded to Pwllheli test centre to help solve the current problems.”

He added: “It has been a tough two years for everyone, and I believe especially the driving industry.

“We were one of the first industries placed into lockdown and one of the last to be allowed back to work. Many of us are self employed and rely on the income that driving tuition provides us.

“My fear is that more and more learner drivers will source driver tuition elsewhere leaving many of us without work if they are unable to see a return to the previous levels of available tests at Pwllheli Test Centre.”DVSA’s Chief Executive, Loveday Ryder, said: “We are doing all we can to provide as many tests as possible so we can get our services back to normal. I know learners will be keen to take their test now, but it is important that they are properly prepared for their test and don’t take it before they are ready.“With more than half of candidates failing, and demand currently extremely high for tests, learners should only take their test only when they are confident they can pass. This will help them to avoid a lengthy wait for a retest and help us by not adding to the driving test waiting list.”Commenting on cancellation apps, a DVSA spokesperson said: “We do not employ, encourage or licence anyone to provide a cancellation checking service. Many of the current providers of this service are charging above the booking rate, which could be seen to promote social divides between those who can and can’t afford to use such services. We continue to take steps to block cancellation services from accessing the booking system.”

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