The 'flippant' response to planned closure of HGV test centre that has enraged many

A “flippant” suggestion that closing a Gwynedd test centre and forcing learner lorry and bus drivers to travel an extra 154 miles would offer them “further driving experience” has been slammed by AMs. There are fears that the test centre for HGV drivers in Caernarfon could transfer to Wrexham – a 90 minute drive away – which has been described as “devastating” for the companies and individuals in north west Wales which depend on it. According to the UK Government the plan is currently a “contingency,” with officials from the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) on the lookout for an alternative site in and around Caernarfon.

But after the issue was debated in the Senedd – having also been raised in the Commons by Hywel Williams MP – members have slammed a minister’s “flippant” response despite concerns the move could cost local firms several thousands of pounds. The Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps, in a letter to his Welsh Government counterpart, Ken Skates, cited a national decision to withdraw from former goods vehicle testing stations, such as Caernarfon, but that the DVSA “understood the impact” closure would have on the local community and were “considering the consequences carefully.” “Plans are in place to move car and trailer driver testing to Bangor DTC, ten miles away,” added Mr Shapps, “While lorry and bus driver testing would be available at Wrexham LGV DTC, 77 miles away.

“LGV test candidates do not have to visit the testing centre while learning to drive. Most vocational learner drivers take intensive courses, lasting one week, and then the test.

Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency(DVSA) vocational testing centre in Caernarfon

“The journey to the DTC is an opportunity for the candidate to gain further driving experience before the test.” But the response has been described by one AM as “flippant,” citing the round trips of up to 180 that some constituents face if such tests are transferred to Wrexham.

“This is about as flippant a response as I can imagine, from a UK Government that clearly couldn’t care less about the impact of the decision to close the test centre in Caernarfon,” said Ynys Mon AM, Rhun ap Iorwerth.

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“The Minister even suggests that the 154 mile round trip from Caernarfon to Wrexham is an added bonus as driving practice. “There are parts of my constituency where the round trip (to Wrexham) is 180 miles, and learner drivers from parts of Gwynedd who’ll have to travel over 200 miles for a test.”

The 'flippant' response to planned closure of HGV test centre that has enraged manyEconomy Minister Ken Skates

He concluded: “This is unforgivable neglect of our social and economic needs, and surely the current coronavirus crisis tells us how valuable goods vehicle and public service vehicle drivers are to us. “This underhand move will make it far more difficult to train and recruit such drivers.”

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Huw Williams, who runs Huw Williams Driver Training Ynys Mon, from Gaerwen on Anglesey, says if Caernarfon closed it would “finish his company.”

“It would cost us GBP110 in fuel to get to Wrexham and back each day, and we would have to leave at 6am as it takes an hour and a half,” he said. “We can’t do it and there are six other firms like us in Gwynedd and Anglesey that feed into the Caernarfon centre.” Ken Skates, in a letter to AM’s, also noted he was “disappointed” in the response and a failure to take such concerns on board.

He added, however, that officials in Cardiff Bay continue to engage with both the DVSA and Gwynedd Council in a bid to do “everything possible to stop the Caernarfon centre from closing.”

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