DRIVING instructors in and around Westbury are campaigning to get Trowbridge Test Centre reopened following a report lambasting the government for shutting local test sites.
The Trowbridge centre shut in August 2008, forcing learner drivers to take their tests at Chippenham ever since. Learner drivers are now facing a considerable increase in the cost of taking the test, given that Westbury is some 20 miles from Chippenham as opposed to just 5 miles from Trowbridge. As a result, learner drivers now have to dedicate the extra time and money to get to Chippenham, not only to take the test but to familiarise themselves with the town beforehand.
An all-party House of Commons Transport Committee report published on 23rd March, criticised the Government and Driving Standards Agency (DSA) for closing local Driving Test Centres like Trowbridge.
Tony Pharo of Freedom School of Motoring based in Westbury said, “We had a demonstration last week at Chippenham, and everyone seems to be behind our cause. The closure of the test centre caused an awful lot of disappointment.
“From my experience, the closure of Trowbridge DTC has put the cost of learning to drive out of reach for a number of teenagers in Trowbridge, Westbury, Frome and the surrounding villages. The extra cost, certainly running into hundreds of pounds, required to familiarise learner drivers with the area in which they’ll take their test to give them the best chances of success coupled with the generally poor economic climate has definitely resulted in a decline in the number of people taking driving lessons and some driving instructors have thrown in the towel altogether.
“I strongly believe, as I said during the campaign to save Trowbridge DTC, that the extra time and money learner drivers are having to spend travelling to and from test areas such as Chippenham would be better spent on more productive practice and raising their driving standards.
“What other options do teenagers have in this society where, in my opinion, being able to drive is essential when it comes to job prospects? Are they having to give up on the idea altogether, make do without professional tuition or worst of all driving unlicensed and thereby illegally, potentially dangerously and without valid insurance? We need to keep essential services such as Driving Test Centres local and accessible for all”.
While the move aimed to cut costs for the DSA by concentrating on new multi purpose test centres in larger towns and cities, the House of Commons Transport Committee report accused the DSA of causing “significant cost and inconvenience to test candidates” while only making “a very small capital gain” to themselves and the Government.
The revelation has spurred driving instructors in the area, who previously campaigned to keep the Trowbridge centre open, to renew their efforts. They want the centre, whose site has remained unoccupied since its closure, to be re-opened, and are writing to candidates in the imminent general election. The instructors are asking them to seek an undertaking from their Party Leaders that they’ll require the DSA to reopen a DTC in Trowbridge and reinstate motorbike module 2 road riding tests at Trowbridge and/or Chippenham DTCs as soon as possible following the general election in the event that they win or have a significant influence in any resultant hung parliament.