A DECISION to close Bromsgrove’s driving test centre will impact almost 900 instructors and thousands of learners who have practised in the area over the last two years.
Halfords rolled out a pilot DVSA test centre scheme at five branches around the country in 2014 but then in March its Redditch-based head office notified the DVSA about its decision to end the scheme.
The company said: “We are always looking at ways to improve our shops for customers.
“For the last two years, we have hosted a DVSA test centre at our Bromsgrove shop and we’ve now made the decision to end this pilot scheme.
“We’ve worked closely with the DVSA to ensure a smooth changeover, providing sufficient time for the test centre to relocate.
“We also gave the DVSA the option to extend the agreement of driving test bookings had been made beyond this time frame.”
The driving authority sent 871 email notifications to instructors in and around Bromsgrove to warn them about the decision.
For instructors such as David Mann, 57, the notification came as a shock.
He told the Standard: “As far as we were concerned, it was working wonderfully.
“None of the examiners had a problem with travelling to Bromsgrove and all the students enjoyed carrying out their tests in an area they were familiar with.
“Bromsgrove itself is also expanding with its new railway station, so a place like this deserves a test centre.”
Mr Mann said closure of the test centre would mean many clients from the area would spend most of their lesson time driving from Bromsgrove to other areas where test centres are based, such as Redditch or Worcester.
He added: “Of course we teach learners to drive anywhere, but I would not be a very good instructor if I did not help learners practice in the area where they will be tested.”
Mr Mann said the extra mileage would not only mean spending extra time and money for learners, but will also leave a heavy carbon footprint.
He added each driving instructor had an average of 30 clients, and many of his learners, mostly aged between 17 and 20, were ‘upset’ to hear of the test centre’s closure.
“Instead of making us feel so unwelcome, they could have solved any commercial issues by approaching us to say ”we’re conscious of the fact many of your learners visit Halfords – here’s a little voucher, why don’t they come see us when they’ve passed their test and we’ll give them a little starter kit?’
“On top of that, students will probably be tested on how to drive using a satnav in the future- so they could have sold hundreds.
“They just haven’t been proactive about the fact they’ve had customers walking through the door.”
Following a letter of concern and disappointment from one learner, MP Sajid Javid wrote to DVSA chief executive Gareth Llewellyn who said the pilot was rolled out to accommodate the DVSA’s Taking Testing to the Customer (TTTTC) scheme at non-government-owned test centres, such as Halfords.
Mr Llewellyn confirmed the authority was not looking for a replacement centre in Bromsgrove ‘because demand will be served by our permanent test centres in Redditch and Worcester’.
Halfords has also asked the DVSA to move out of its premises in East Killbride, Ashton Under Lyne, Wellingborough and Hemel Hempstead.