Minister hopes backlog on driving test will be cleared ‘in the next few months’

Ministers said they hoped to clear the driver’s license exam burden “in the next few months” after lawmakers representing rural areas called for urgent action.

Transport Minister Richard Holden said waiting lists for driving tests were “rapidly” declining, pointing to 300,000 new practice test slots.

But Conservative MP Greg Smith said many of Buckingham’s voters failed to secure the tests, and one struggled to book seats at five centers despite logging in daily.

Former Liberal Democrat minister Alistair Carmichael said the earliest date to get a test appointment in Shetland is 18 weeks, adding that “there is no test date” for Orkney.

“This is quite different from the non-continuous off-road testing.”

Mr Holden previously told Commons: “The DVSA (Driver and Vehicle Standards Authority) is recovering after the pandemic. Theoretical testing service is performing well, there are 620,000 practice test appointments in the booking system.

“Since April 2021, an additional 695,000 cars have made practice driving test appointments, and the average wait time to take a car test is 15.1 weeks and there are now over 80,000 vacancies.

“The average wait time for a truck or other professional driving test is just over two weeks at the moment. The truck test service is operating normally and enforcement operations have continued throughout the pandemic.”

His Tory colleague Mr Smith said: “More than one voter wrote to me this week that they were unable to take the driver’s test – one being nearby Bletchley, Leighton Buzzard, Aylesbury, Banbury, Northampton, although they log in every day.

“For rural communities like those I represent, young or old, a car is absolutely essential to get anywhere, so can (Mr. Holden) prioritize when talking to DVSA testing centers to get rural communities back on track?”

Mr Holden, MP for North West Durham, replied: “Although I am in a different part of the country, I also represent a rural constituency.

“We’ve made great progress in recent years, with more than 300,000 new places, thanks to the 300 extra driver instructors we’ve hired since the pandemic.

“Waiting lists for driver testing are rapidly declining and we hope to return to pre-pandemic levels in the next few months.”

For the Labor Party, shadow transport minister Simon Lightwood said: “Nearly one in 10 bus driver positions nationwide is vacant, which is hitting vital services nationwide drastically.

“But ministers are asleep behind the wheel and there is no action plan to tackle this.

“Currently, DVSA is seeking a temporary bus license to begin training. However, due to major paperwork delays, 20% of applicants give up before their training begins.

“So the minister will listen to calls to speed up this icy process to allow applicants to begin their theory tests while they await their provisional licenses?”

Mr. Holden replied: “The Opposition spokesperson makes a very important point and one that I have made myself and have spoken to both unions and management during my recent visits to both the Stevenage and Gateshead bus depots.

“Currently there is a wait time of less than three weeks for driving tests for bus drivers, less than three weeks for practical tests, and we are looking to do everything we can to expedite that.”

Speaking outside the hall, AA president Edmund King said: “The backlog of driving license exams is a big problem in rural areas as well as in urban areas where many young people depend on passing their exams to find a job.

“The AA Charitable Trust, together with the charity Live Unlimited, supports young people in care and care leave learning to drive in Barnet, north London.

“Our research shows that learning to drive not only aids the mobility and job prospects of young care leavers, but also boosts their self-esteem.”

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