Fury as driving tests in Whitby stopped due to temporary swing bridge closure

Whitby’s MP has said he has written to the Department of Transport to protest the decision to temporarily remove driving tests in the town due to a bridge closure.

Tuesday, 17th August 2021, 3:49 pm
Updated Tuesday, 17th August 2021, 3:50 pm

Driving instructors and learner drivers have been informed by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) this week that tests will not be offered until November after a move to close Whitby’s Swing Bridge to traffic on weekdays.

Robert Goodwill, the MP for Scarborough and Whitby and a former minister of state for Transport, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that he had been contacted by a mother whose 17-year-old son had been told he would now have to go to Scarborough to take his test.

The trial closure of Whitby swing bridge has stopped driving tests from happening in the town for the duration of the trial period.

Mr Goodwill said there were two major issues with the DVSA’s decision.

He said: “One is that young people will be taking a test, certainly in the short term, in a place where they haven’t been doing all their driving practice.

“Most people tend to learn to drive within the town that they are going to take their test so that they get familiar with the junctions and all the little sort of quirky things on the roads.

“The other problem will be that if you are a driving instructor in Whitby, people are not particularly going to want to, as part of their lesson, make a return trip to Scarborough.

“I have written to the Department for Transport asking them why they cannot carry out driving tests in Whitby merely because the Swing Bridge is closed to traffic given that there are plenty of other places where you can do all the various manoeuvres and junctions required.”

Under the trial closure of the Swing Bridge, which is being carried out in a bid to reduce the danger to pedestrians on the busy crossing between the east and west sides of town, vehicles will be prohibited from driving across between 10.30am and 4pm seven days a week.

Only buses and vehicles responding to an emergency call are exempt.

Peter Leighton, who runs Pete’s Driving School in Whitby, said that instructors would now have to take on fewer pupils in order to take them to Scarborough or Middlesbrough to take their tests.

He said: “All we can do is train them in Whitby.

“If we have got three or four pupils a day now that is going to go down to about two pupils a day because of the travel time to Scarborough, teaching them there and then getting them back home to Whitby.”

Mr Leighton said he feared that if the bridge closure became permanent in the future, something not ruled out by the county council, it would be the end of tests in Whitby.

Robert Anscombe, who has been a driving instructor in the town for 14 years, had similar concerns.

He said: “The tests not going ahead is going to cause chaos.

“Students who have been waiting for nearly two years to take tests due to Covid are now going to have to take them in a place they are incredibly unfamiliar with.

“Also, it is going to mean if they want a lesson in Scarborough it is going to take three hours, one hour each there and back then the lesson.

"It is going to cost them a fortune.

“I am going to have to drop two thirds of my students to do it.”

Mr Anscombe said that the trial closure of the bridge on weekdays had not proved popular with local residents and businesses with 1,000 people signing a petition against it.

He added: “I think that this is the beginning of the end.

"You get the impression as a driving instructor that they have never wanted a test centre in Whitby.

“I think that if [the DVSA] sees that we are coping it could become a permanent fixture.”

A DVSA spokesman said it was not able to offer tests during the Swing Bridge closure but it was not a long-term change.

They said: “The driving test centre in Whitby will be closed until October 31.

"This is because of a bridge closure that will leave test routes inaccessible.

“We will contact all affected candidates and try to rebook them with an appointment at the Scarborough test centre, on the same date and time where possible.

“We are very sorry for any inconvenience caused. Testing will resume at Whitby from November when the bridge re-opens.”