19 Jan 2009 : Column 7P

19 Jan 2009 : Column 7P


Monday 19 January 2009



Learner Drivers (Brighton and Hove)

The Petition of driving instructors and their pupils, local to Brighton and Hove driving test centres,

Declares that the proposed closure of Brighton and Hove driving test centre by the Driving Standards Agency in order to re-locate to Burgess Hill multi-purpose test centre would be damaging, ill conceived and un-workable for the following reasons:

The Driving Standards Agency’s Code of Practice on consultations on driving test centres states that: “In more densely populated areas of the country where the population is equal to or greater than 1, 250 persons per square kilometre the practical test centres should be located so that most customers travel no more than 7 miles to a DTC”. In the Brighton area the population density is 3,023 persons per square kilometre, nearly two and a half times the level needed for centres to be located so that most customers travel less than seven miles. The consultation paper suggests that the distance from Burgess Hill to Brighton is only ten miles. The distance “as the Crow flies” is well over ten miles from Brighton sea front and by real roads nearly sixteen miles, well over double the Agency's recommended distance.

Burgess Hill offers nowhere near the same complexity of road layouts that Brighton and Hove does, therefore the driving tests carried out there will not support the Government's aim to improve the standard of driver training.

The driving test traffic from around 40 test routes from the Brighton and Hove centres will be combined with traffic from clients living in areas of mid Sussex onto just 12 routes. With the added traffic from pupils practising to familiarise themselves with the area, local traffic congestion will be intolerable and the efficient running of driving test centres highly unlikely. E.g. there is just one crossroads controlled by traffic lights. If all the tests are to assess performance at this point, and if each learner practises the junction three times before taking the test during working hours, then there will be one learner car at this junction approx every 90 seconds.

The environmental impact of the extended travel should be taken into account. E.g. approx 75 pupils a day will use Burgess Hill instead of Brighton and Hove. They will travel 20 miles extra each time on approximately 5 trips to Burgess Hill to practice and take the test = 93,600 visits per annum = 1,872,00 extra miles per annum. At 139g CO2 per KM (e.g. Vauxhall Corsa 1.2) this represents almost 419 tonnes of unnecessary CO2 emissions per annum.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Secretary of State for Transport to reject the Driving Standards Agency’s request to close Brighton Driving Test Centre and Hove Driving Test Centre in order to re-locate to Burgess Hill Multi-purpose
19 Jan 2009 : Column 8P
Test Centre and insist that at least one driving test centre in the city of Brighton and Hove is retained.

And the Petitioners remain, etc. —[Presented by Ms Celia Barlow , Official Report, 18 December 2008; Vol. 485, c. 17P .]


Observations from the Secretary of State for Transport:

The Driving Standards Agency (DSA) has a statutory responsibility for setting standards for theory and practical driving tests and assessing the standard of driving at the practical driving test. The Agency is also responsible for decisions as to the location of individual test centres.

DSA is a self-financing organisation, largely reliant upon test fee income for the provision of its services. This imposes a requirement for its services to be delivered efficiently so as to avoid unnecessary costs, which would have to be recovered from its customers via the driving test fee.

As part of the implementation arrangements for European Commission Directive 200/56/EC, which introduced more demanding manoeuvres for practical motorcycle tests, the Agency is establishing Multi-Purpose Test Centres (MPTCs). Burgess Hill was, after careful consideration, chosen as an appropriate site for a MPTC. Senior DSA staff assessed and confirmed the operational suitability of Burgess Hill as a MPTC site. The Agency is satisfied that the number of test routes available will be sufficient for the number of tests forecast to be conducted.

As a consequence of the decision to locate a MPTC at Burgess Hill, existing test centre provision in the wider area was reviewed. The subsequent decision to co-locate Brighton and Hove driving test centres at Burgess Hill MPTC was intended to maximise its utilisation.

DSA considered retaining a test centre in either Brighton or Hove. However, the Agency decided not to pursue this option, in part, because an under-utilised MPTC at Burgess Hill would compromise the objective of providing a cost effective service. Also, neither Brighton nor Hove driving test centre has the capacity to absorb the demand that would be displaced by the closure of the other. This would result in longer waiting times for tests in that area with some candidates then having little option but to book a test at Burgess Hill in order to obtain an early appointment.

The closure of Brighton and Hove driving test centres will result in candidates from the coastal strip having to travel further than 7 miles to take their test at Burgess Hill. But those candidates living further inland, who would previously have needed to travel to Brighton or Hove to take their tests, will have a shorter journey.

It should only be necessary for learner drivers to travel from Brighton or Hove to Burgess Hill for a limited number of pre-test familiarisation lessons. They should gain driving experience on a variety of roads, not simply by following recognised test routes.

DSA has service standards to be met wherever possible. In areas with a population density equal to (or more than) 1,250 persons per square kilometre, they state that most candidates should not have to travel more than 7 miles to a driving test centre. Therefore, in accordance with the DSA Code of Practice on Written Consultations, a public consultation commenced on 21 February and closed on 16 May 2008. The result of the consultation was announced on 31 October 2008.

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