Sunderland - South Shields protest convoy to hit the road over planned closure of South Tyneside driving test centre
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A group of about 50 cars is due to meet in Sunderland on Monday, February 28, morning to highlight the effect they claim the move could have on Wearside’s roads.
Business at the facility in Bede Industrial Estate, in Jarrow, is slated to cease from April 10, after which motorists are expected to be directed to Sunderland for assessments.
The move has prompted fears that learners in South Tyneside could see further increases to waiting lists and lesson costs, with campaigners pushing for a stay of execution, at least, to clear backlogs.
“We’re getting four or five inquiries a day from people desperate for an instructor - and that’s before you get to the five-month waiting list for a test,” said convoy organiser Vikki Holt, from Hebburn.
“[If this goes ahead,] lesson prices will go up and more people will try to do things for themselves.”
Holt, who has been a driving instructor for 13 years, has seen her campaign backed by senior figures at South Tyneside Council, as well as the borough’s MPs.
Monday’s protest convoy, which follows a similar event last month, is due to leave Sunderland on the morning, crossing the Northern Spire Bridge before heading up the A19 to South Tyneside.
Bosses at the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), who has also been criticised for wider planned reforms to driving instructors, have insisted testing capacity in the region will not be affected by the closure and that learner drivers should be prepared for all roads, not just the routes near a given test centre.
A DVSA spokesperson said: “We have made the decision to close the South Shields driving test centre, as there are other nearby centres where the same services can be relocated.
“We understand this change may cause an inconvenience for some, but we have worked hard to ensure that there is no change in the number of tests provided to local candidates, and no tests were lost as a result of the closure.
“It is vital that learners are prepared to drive safely on all types of road before taking their test, rather than simply learning driving test centre routes.”