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Success in Trowbridge Test Centre campaign

November 16, 2011 9:50 AM
By Campaign to re-open Trowbridge Test Centre

Gary Fossey with Andrew Murrison

The government's Driving Standards Agency has announced that tests will come back to Trowbridge in December. Examiners will operate for two days per week on a trial basis using Longfields Community Centre. Tests will also start in Westbury from Leighton Recreation Centre. Tests can now be booked via the DSA website http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Motoring/LearnerAndNewDrivers/index.htm

Road Safety Minister Mike Penning said: "I am delighted that we are bringing driving tests closer to candidates in Wiltshire. I want us to be more flexible and innovative in delivering driving tests to make sure that we are offering people the best service possible wherever they live. Our aim is to offer a local service that is convenient for candidates as well as being cost effective."

Here's a press release from the Campaign to Re-open Trowbridge Test Centre:

"Following 3 ¾ years campaigning for driver testing facilities in the Trowbridge area and the closure of Trowbridge Driving Test Centre in Wiltshire Drive, Trowbridge by the Driving Standards Agency (DSA) and previous Labour Government in August 2008, driving instructors in West Wiltshire and North East Somerset are celebrating the formal announcement by the Driving Standards Agency (DSA) yesterday that practical car driver testing facilities will be opening at Longfield Community Centre in Trowbridge and Leighton Recreation Centre in Westbury on Monday 12th December 2011 and Thursday 15th December 2011 respectfully.
The excellent news for learner drivers and people wanting to learn to drive in the area comes following an announcement by Transport Minister Mike Penning MP on 27th June 2011 that driving test candidates would benefit from a more local service as the result of Driving Standards Agency (DSA) trials in seven areas across Britain, including the Trowbridge area, exploring a new approach to test delivery. As well as using conventional driving test centres, the DSA is looking at whether tests can be delivered from other venues such as local authority buildings, leisure centres and hotels.
Gary Fossey of Shamrock Driving School and Leader of the Campaign to Reopen Trowbridge Driving Test Centre said "This is fantastic news for anyone currently learning or wishing to learn to drive in Trowbridge, Westbury, Frome, Warminster and surrounding areas. It will reduce the cost of learning to drive for people living in these areas by at £200-£400 and allow people approaching their test to take shorter lessons rather than, as is currently the case, having to find the time and money to take 2-3 hour lessons to cover the half hour to an hour journey to and from the nearest driving test centres in Chippenham and Salisbury. We are aware from DSA data that the number of driving tests taken by people living in areas previously served by Trowbridge DTC has dropped by up to a third following its closure and driving instructors are reporting an increase in the numbers of people wishing to learn to drive in these areas following the initial announcement in June 2011 that driver testing would be returning to the Trowbridge area. Not only is this excellent news for the people of West Wiltshire and North East Somerset but it will also reduce the number of learner drivers preparing for their driving tests on the already congested roads in Chippenham and Salisbury. The great pity is that the DSA and previous Labour administration ignored our now vindicated campaign to save the previous Trowbridge DTC. Their ill-advised decision hit the area very hard during the subsequent recession and resulted in many people being unable to learn to drive, which has undoubtedly affected some people's work prospects, together with forcing a number of driving instructors to leave the industry".

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News of a successful outcome for the campaign was broken in June, when in a letter to Duncan Hames MP transport minister Mike Penning said, "I am writing to tell you that the Driving Standards Agency (DSA) plans to launch a trial in Wiltshire offering a more local service for practical driving test candidates.
"This is one of a limited number of trials to provide tests in selected areas that do not currently have a local test centre, but still have significant demand for tests. The aim is to provide a service for the local community and ensure that candidates can take their test at a convenient location. I want the DSA to be more flexible and innovative in delivering driving tests to make sure it is offering people the best service possible wherever they live. So as well as using conventional driving test centres, DSA is exploring whether tests could also be delivered from other venues such as local authority buildings, hotels or leisure centres, The DSA is working to identify suitable test routes in Wiltshire, and find a venue that offers the right level of service for candidates."

The news came immediately after instructors from Trowbridge, Westbury, Frome and Melksham held a 'drive slow' through Trowbridge and Westbury, which ended with a heated meeting with Andrew Murrison MP. Dr Murrison listened to the instructors' concerns and told them he'd spoken prior to the protest with the Government Minister responsible for driver testing, Mike Penning, who'd been "positive" regarding the likelihood of driver testing returning to Trowbridge. Andrew Murrison has since written to the Minister pressing him for a favourable decision before the summer parliamentary recess, and has asked that the Minister meets with him and instructor representatives in the near future.

Gary Fossey of Shamrock Driving School and leader of the Campaign to Reopen Trowbridge Driving Test Centre said "We'd like to thank the people of Trowbridge and Westbury for supporting our campaign and especially those who told us that they wanted driver testing reinstated in Trowbridge since they or their family had been forced to put off learning to drive as a direct result of the increased cost of passing the driving test following the closure of Trowbridge DTC. We have made Dr Andrew Murrison MP well aware that many of his constituents and people living in adjoining areas have been adversely affected and angered by the impact of the closure of Trowbridge DTC in August 2008".

Picture - Gary Fossey and Andrew Murrison MP