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Issue 340 – Driving test centre moves closer

LEARNER drivers in Frome will shortly be able to take their practical driving test in Westbury instead of having to travel to Bristol or Chippenham, significantly reducing the cost of learning to drive in the area.

In a new trial, which explores delivering tests from sites other than conventional driving test centres, candidates will be able to take their test from Leighton Recreation Centre in Westbury from Thursday 15th December. Testing will take place on a part-time basis, two days a week, and tests will also be conducted in a similar manner from the Longfield Community Centre in Trowbridge.
The Driving Standards Agency (DSA) say that the move “is part of a national trial to provide a more local service for driving test candidates.”
The DSA continues, “The trial offers practical car tests in selected areas across England, Scotland and Wales that do not currently have a local test centre but still have a significant demand for tests. The aim is to provide a service for the local community and ensure that candidates are able to take their test at a convenient location.”
Since Trowbridge’s Driving Test Centre closed in August 2008, learner drivers from Frome have had to travel to Bristol or Chippenham – both round trips of some 40 miles – in order to take the test and to familiarise themselves with the route in lessons beforehand. Local driving instructors estimate that the new centre will save learners £200-£400, as well as making considerable savings in time.
Gary Fossey of Shamrock Driving School has led the ‘Campaign to Reopen Trowbridge Driving Test Centre’ for almost four years. He said, “This is fantastic news for anyone currently learning or wishing to learn to drive in Trowbridge, Westbury, Frome, Warminster and surrounding areas. It will reduce the cost of learning to drive for people living in these areas by at £200-£400 and allow people approaching their test to take shorter lessons rather than, as is currently the case, having to find the time and money to take 2-3 hour lessons to cover the half hour to an hour journey to and from the nearest driving test centres.
“We are aware from DSA data that the number of driving tests taken by people living in areas previously served by Trowbridge DTC has dropped by up to a third following its closure and driving instructors are reporting an increase in the numbers of people wishing to learn to drive in these areas following the initial announcement in June 2011 that driver testing would be returning to the Trowbridge area. This is excellent news for the people of West Wiltshire and North East Somerset.
“The great pity is that the DSA and previous Labour administration ignored our now vindicated campaign to save the previous Trowbridge DTC. Their ill-advised decision hit the area very hard during the subsequent recession and resulted in many people being unable to learn to drive, which has undoubtedly affected some people’s work prospects, together with forcing a number of driving instructors to leave the industry.
“We would like to take this opportunity to thank Dr Andrew Murrison MP (Cons – S W Wiltshire), Duncan Hames MP (Lib Dem – Chippenham), local media and the people of West Wiltshire and North East Somerset who have supported our campaign and directly contributed to its successful outcome”.
In addition to the trial in Wiltshire, DSA is running trials in six other areas across the country. All the trials will be carefully monitored to assess any impact on levels of customer service and the cost of delivery, as well as making sure the integrity of the test is maintained.
DSA will then decide whether the trials can be rolled out on a permanent basis and extended to other areas without a local test centre where there is a significant demand, as well as suitable test routes and venues.
The trials only involve practical car tests; theory test centres will not be affected.

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