Hands up if you’ve ever been able to drive from Fleetwood to Preston in 40 minutes. Nope? Me neither. At the time of writing the AA records that today there is moderate traffic and an estimated travel time of 66 minutes.
Getting a bus from Fleetwood to Preston can take up to two hours and going by bus/tram and train can take up to 90 minutes. Hence my complaint to the government about their proposed closure of Blackpool’s driving theory test centre, forcing everyone in Fleetwood to travel to what will be the nearest test centre in Preston.
This week the Minister for Roads, Buses and Places (Baroness Vere of Norbiton) responded to my concerns by informing me that the government has worked it so that “the population of Great Britain can travel to a theory test centre within 40 minutes (urban) or 40 miles (rural)” and that this “was a fundamental criteria of the procurement of the test centre network contracts.”
She went on to tell me that “the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) ensured that the travel times and distances were representative of customers’ experience and provided a robust method for DVSA to validate and compare the solutions provided by bidders. (I don’t think this letter would win a Plain Speaking Award).
Apparently to do this, the government used ‘the leading geographic information system (ArcGIS) software. This mapped every area of population to a test centre and the DVSA validated that every area met the criteria.’
This apparently “includes your constituency and the wider Fylde coastal area.”
Baroness Vere of Norbiton went on to say “the DVSA understands the actual travel times will vary from day to day. However, the DVSA is confident that it has used a consistent approach to mapping the travel for the whole population so that everyone across Great Britain is treated fairly. As populations and road layouts change over time, the DVSA will review the travel time and distance to understand if any changes are needed to the test centre network.”
None of this makes any sense to me and is once again a cost cutting exercise that leaves the least able to afford it, out of pocket. In future taking a driving test will require taking a day off work or college and a cost of up to £20 to pay for public transport to get there. Here in Fleetwood we have below national average car ownership and above national average need for benefit support due to low incomes and poor employment opportunities. I’m guessing none of this was taken into account when the conservatives decided to close the test centre in Blackpool.