Kettering's 'disastrous' driving test waits leave learners in limbo
Learner drivers have been left waiting months for a test because of the Covid backlog
A huge backlog which has left learner drivers waiting months to take a test in Kettering has been raised in the House of Commons.
Driving tests resumed on April 22 after they were stopped during the third national lockdown to slow the spread of Covid-19.
But with hundreds of learner drivers now looking to pass their test, slots at Kettering's Orion Way centre have been like gold dust.
And Kettering MP Philip Hollobone (Con) has called for urgent action from the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) to increase the number of driving tests being made available in the town.
He said: "Learner drivers in Kettering who are currently awaiting a test date are being offered November as the earliest available time, if they are lucky.
"If we are going to get our economy moving again and give people their lives back, particularly young people, that is simply not good enough and urgent action is required."
A DVSA spokesman said that, as of 10am on June 25, there were 69 driving tests available in Kettering with an 'average waiting time of three weeks'.
But Kettering driving instructor Adrian Stear, who runs Adrian Stear Driving School, said he checks the driving test availability website multiple times a day for his pupils without success.
He said: "I managed to get some in October but that was ages ago.
"I've been on the website every day, three or four times a day, and there's nothing at all for Kettering or Wellingborough.
"It's disastrous really because what it means is that people who are approaching being ready for their test have a choice. They either carry on with lessons, which is good for them but expensive, or they take a break which could be disastrous because they could come back rusty.
"It's thrown everyone's schedule completely off."
It is likely that some younger learner drivers in the area will currently be waiting for a test to allow them to drive, so they can meet requirements for a job, and may be unable to do the job as a result of the delay.
Mr Stear backed calls to increase capacity at Kettering's driving test centre so learners could move on with their career.
He said: "They need to [increase it] otherwise what's the way out?
"At some point they're going to have to clear the backlog."
DVSA 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 candidates are properly prepared and don’t rush to take it.
“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 backlog of tests.“
A DVSA spokesman said that nationally they were taking measures to increase testing including offering overtime and annual leave buy-back to driving examiners, inviting recently retired examiners to conduct tests, conducting out-of-hours testing such as at weekends and on public holidays and launching a campaign to recruit an additional 300 examiners.
They said candidates should continue to check the system for new tests.