Driving instructors

50-car drive-by protest planned in response to closure of South Shields driving test center

Frustrated driving instructors stage a second protest in South Shields to highlight the impact of the closure of their local driving test centre, hoping to catalyze a U-turn by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) .

The DVSA plans to close the South Shields driving test center on April 10, along with a number of other test centers across the country.

In response to the cuts, 50 local instructors are expected to carry out a drive-through protest in their learner cars on Monday morning, traveling between the Sunderland and South Shields test centers.

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This follows a forty-vehicle protest in late January, where instructors staged a ‘slow down’ protest between the Bede Industrial Estate Test Center and the town hall.

Although examiners will be redeployed to nearby testing centres, such as Sunderland, 5.6 miles away, protesters say there will still be job losses as a result.

Organizer Vikki Holt, a freelance instructor, said there was an “outcry” from the public over the planned closure as it is “another facility” taken away from residents of South Shields.

Jarrow MP Kate Osborne, South Tyneside Council Leader Tracey Dixon and South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck have all shown their support for the campaign.

The three politicians attended a meeting with activists and the DVSA on January 28, which Vicki said left “many questions unanswered”.

She continued: “We haven’t heard from them since, despite sending a list of unanswered questions and asking for a break in current test center costs.

“They are dragging their feet because they know time is running out.

“We are frustrated because there has been no public consultation and the shutdown comes at such a bad time – when the economy is fragile and people are feeling the pressure from the cost of living.

“It will impact people for generations to come, and if we don’t speak out they will continue to cut services.”

Campaigners argue the closure will increase the cost of lessons as instructors will have to take their clients from South Shields to Sunderland, using more fuel and more time.

They said it would also increase wait times as instructors are forced out of the profession.

Vikki Holt, who is a freelance driving instructor, said: “The DVSA say people don’t need courses in Sunderland to take their exam there, but I’ve created a poll which shows the majority of people would be uncomfortable doing a test on unfamiliar roads.

“At the moment we are already getting around 4 or 5 inquiries every day from people in South Shields, if the shutdown continues it will deprive people of the right to learn to drive.”

DVLA Driving Test Center in Jarrow

MP Kate Osborne, meanwhile, is still awaiting a meeting with Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.

The DVSA spokesperson said: ‘We have made the decision to close the South Shields Driving Test Center as there are other centers nearby where the same services can be moved.

“We understand that this change may cause inconvenience to some, but we have worked hard to ensure there is no change in the number of tests provided to local applicants, and that no tests have been lost following the closure.

“It is essential that learners are prepared to drive safely on all types of road before taking their test, rather than just learning driving test center routes.”

Vikki believes there are around 100 instructors in the area who will be affected by the closure.