Coronavirus: Learner drivers to get test re-booking priority


Learner drivers in Northern Ireland who had tests cancelled because of the pandemic will be given priority access to re-book an examination.

Driving tests were suspended as part of the current four-week restrictions.

About 2,500 driving tests have been cancelled during this period, according to the Department of Infrastructure (DoI).

This includes about 1,000 key workers and learners who had their first test cancelled between March and June.

Driving tests are due to resume on 14 November subject to whether the NI Executive approves the end of restrictions this week.

Those affected will be given advance access to the booking system from 9 November, the chief executive of the Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) said.

Jeremy Logan told Stormont’s Infrastructure Committee about 2,000 additional appointments will be made available over November, December and January to help ease the backlog.

Tests will continue to be offered on Saturdays and there are plans to conduct driving tests for heavy goods on Sundays where appropriate, he added.

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“We are working hard to maximise the availability of test slots across all of our test centres however the Covid restrictions mean that we’ve had to adapt our services to ensure that they can be conducted safely and we ask our customers to remain patient at this difficult time.”

Meanwhile, theory test pass certificates due to expire from 1 November 2020, which have already had their validity extended for eight months, will be extended by a further four months, the infrastructure minister has announced.

Nichola Mallon confirmed the move on Wednesday saying her priority is to keep people safe and “minimise disruption and inconvenience to our customers”.

Learner drivers must pass their practical test within two years of receiving their theory certificate or face retaking the theory test.

The minister said the extension of theory certificates will benefit about 4,000 people.

“I will be bringing forward further legislation in this area, to be in place by December, to help further mitigate the impact on customers due to the cessation of practical driving tests as a result of the latest Covid restrictions,” she added.

The deputy secretary of the DVA, Julie Thompson, said that MoT testing is taking place in all of Northern Ireland’s 15 test centres but at reduced capacity.

She said centres were operating at about 30% of their maximum capacity because of Covid safety measures, including reduced lanes and social distancing.

MoT tests were suspended in January after faults were detected in some of the lifts. Testing was further disrupted by the pandemic.

The agency issued temporary exemption certificates (TECs) so motorists could stay on the road.

She added that the DVA is aware that many TECs are due to expire in the new year and her team is working hard to address this deadline.

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Olivia Wilson
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