Watch as campaign convoy crosses Sunderland's Northern Spire Bridge to protest planned closure of South Tyneside driving test centre
Dozens of driving instructors have hit the road in Sunderland to highlight plans to shut a South Tyneside test centre.
Bosses at the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) confirmed earlier this year that business at the facility in Bede Industrial Estate, in Jarrow, is slated to cease from April 10.
After this, motorists are expected to be directed to Sunderland for assessments – a move opponents have predicted will disproportionately affect learners in South Tyneside, as well as further stretch already long waiting lists.
And to show their anger at the proposals, as well as the potential impact Wearside faces from the scheme, a convoy of about 30 vehicles left the city on Monday morning, heading across the landmark Northern Spire Bridge and continuing north up to Jarrow and the doomed test centre, to show the anger at the impending closure.
"we’re hoping to let the people of Sunderland know and see the amount of additional cars that can be expected on the roads everyday if that closure goes ahead,” said Vikki Holt, one of the protest organisers.
"We’ve got to stop this closure.”
One of those predicting a bad deal for learner drivers from the plans is South Shields-based instructor Daniel Rae, as focus shifts to preparing for tests in Sunderland.
“More people will miss out,” he said, “mainly people in South Tyneside who will be put to the back of the queue because we will naturally choose Sunderland because that’s where the test centre is.
“The DVSA says you should just go to the test route three weeks before your test, but it’s never been taught that way.
"There’s complicated roundabouts in South Shields and Sunderland, which are fine if you’ve got the confidence of driving for years, but as a learner you would have no chance.”
Responding to the protest, a DVSA spokesperson said: “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.”