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Learner drivers trekking from London to the Midlands to take tests amid DVLA six-month backlog

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A driving instructor has revealed that learners from London are booking tests in the Midlands in a bid to skip huge waiting lists.

The pandemic slammed the brakes on lessons and halted non-emergency driving tests, leaving many would-be motorists scrambling to find an instructor with availability.

And for those ready to take a test, they are finding long wait times and in some cases having slots cancelled and rescheduled for months later.

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Neil Shuter, who runs the A-Team Driving School in Solihull, told BirminghamLive about the “wide-ranging” impact of Covid on driving lessons and tests.

His firm employs 13 instructors, all of whom are fully booked up with some students who have waited months to get back in the driver’s seat.

Neil with his fellow instructors, who have taken calls from some students in London

But it is those who are almost test ready who are facing the biggest problems. Neil said that on average learners were looking at a six-month wait to be seen by an examiner.

And some have even seen their tests pushed back by months, forcing them to shell out more on lessons to stay up to scratch.

The DVSA said measures to ease the backlog included out of hours testing, offering overtime to examiners, asking retired examiners to return and a huge recruitment push.

Neil claimed people from outside the Midlands had tried to book tests in the area to jump the queue.

A picture of Solihull Town Centre

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One example included a driver from London booking his test in Shirley despite never visiting Solihull.

“We’ve had it quite a few times as a business,” Neil said.

“I’ve had people coming from Malvern. We had a couple of students come up from London and one spent three or four days in a hotel.

“It’s really strange and I think it is an unfair way of trying to take a test because people local to Shirley are losing out on that opportunity.”

Neil Shuter, driving instructor with the A-Team Driving School in Solihull

Neil Shuter, driving instructor with the A-Team Driving School in Solihull

Neil added he wanted students to prepare correctly as he had been forced to turn some away who had booked tests without consulting an instructor to see if they were ready.

Despite a “real issue” with waiting lists, the school was not in a position to help people without assessing them, he said.

“It’s a bit of education for students, please don’t book tests unless you have an instructor,” Neil went on.

Shirley Test Centre on Stratford Road used by A-Team Driving School

Shirley Test Centre on Stratford Road used by A-Team Driving School

And those who have managed to book a test risk their precious slot being pushed back by overwhelmed test centres.

“These are people who have spent up to 700 pounds on lessons and a fee for the driving test and now they are being pushed back,” Neil explained.

“And the issue there is that they can’t just stop lessons because they will fall out of practice but at the same time as an instructor I don’t like to take money off people who shouldn’t need to be spending it.”

He said the DVSA did great work and was under “increased pressure” but wanted the agency to understand that students were wasting money.

“They are cancelling tests and we understand sometimes that happens but the soonest they are able to offer is March and that’s unfair,” he said.

“Students have paid so much money to then be told no, your test is cancelled and it is in five months time.”

Loveday Ryder, DVSA chief executive, 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.“

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https://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/midlands-news/learner-drivers-trekking-london-midlands-21980907