Driving tests: Agency moves to clear lockdown backlog in NI

Driving tests: Agency moves to clear lockdown backlog in NI

All efforts are being made to clear the backlog of driving tests once the system reopens in NI on Friday, the Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) has said.

Theory and practical tests were cancelled when lockdown was imposed on 26 December.

They will reopen on 23 April, with thousands waiting to take both tests.

Jeremy Logan, chief executive of the DVA, said there was “no question” demand would be high.

Speaking to Stormont’s Infrastructure committee on Wednesday, Mr Logan said he estimated there were about 22,000 people in Northern Ireland with valid theory tests who could be waiting to take a practical test.

The resumption of driving tests will work in several phases:

Mr Logan said he estimated there were about 8,600 people in those first two phases who would be offered a test in the next couple of weeks.

Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon told the committee there would be extended opening hours at test centres to help with demand, and that an additional temporary theory test centre would be opened in Ballymena to provide about 1,000 test slots per week.

Mr Logan said prior to the pandemic, the DVA carried out approximately 3,900 practical driving tests every month for those wanting to drive a car.

The agency’s goal was to “maximise the amount of resource and to exceed the amount of tests to start to eat into that backlog, to try and clear those people waiting for a test as quickly as we can,” he added.

He said he recognised that reopening the service fully presented a challenge, but that the agency would do its best to help all customers.

The committee was told that the agency was working to ensure there would be a number of additional examiners in place to carry out practical driving tests.

Four temporary centres in Belfast, Coleraine, Cookstown and Omagh have also been identified to commence practical tests from mid-May.

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