NORTHERN Isles MP Alistair Carmichael says he is “infuriated” and “astonished” by the extent to which the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has “mishandled” the discussions over the future of motorcycle and large goods vehicle (LGV) driving tests in the isles after instructors were told that the site at the former Anderson High School could not be used from 31 July.
The Shetland and Orkney MP said the government agency had known about the plans by Shetland Islands Council to redevelop the site since 2017.
Negotiations to reach a deal for an alternative site near the old Decca site on the outskirts of Lerwick appear to have collapsed.
If new arrangements for motorcycle module 1 and vocational testing service provision in Lerwick cannot be found at short notice, one local motorcycle instructor is set to go out of business while elements of the LGV driving tests will have to be carried out on the Scottish mainland.
In a letter to Carmichael, the DVSA said the proposed cost for the alternative site was too high and did not represent value for money. In 2019, the current site in Lerwick was used on 49 days, the agency added.
In her letter to the MP, the DVSA’s chief executive Loveday Ryder said the agency “was keen to continue to provide a testing service provision in Lerwick” and was now proposing to “explore and then trial an on-road solution for module 1 motorcycling testing”.
For LGV testing, the DVSA is proposing to examine whether it may be possible to “use a loading bay at a transport operator’s site”.
“As long as we can set up a broadly comparable reversing exercise safely, and there is a suitable, safe place for the uncoupling and recoupling exercise, we are prepared to consider and trial options for these manoeuvres,” the chief executive wrote.
Carmichael said he was “beyond infuriated” and accused the DVSA of mishandling the matter.
“They told us that they had a plan to fix it, and now they have come back and made it clear that they have no intention of fixing it,” he said.
“Frankly, the DVSA gives the pretty good impression of being an organisation that although they are all paid handsomely by the public purse, really do not care at all.
“They have not done anything to progress that in any meaningful way.”
Carmichael said he is due to meet with local driving instructors later this week before speaking to the DVSA’s operations director for the northern part of the country on Friday.
Steve Henry of Shetland Motorbike Training said that if he cannot do any tests in Shetland that he would go out of business. “It is as simple as that,” he said.
Petur Petursson of Drive Shetland Training said he could see no easy fix as a huge area of ground is needed to facilitate the testing requirements.
He added that there was a huge backlog of people wanting to do vocational tests. This is due to the restrictions imposed on the sector due to Covid, but also because of demand for heavy goods tests in Shetland.
However, as it stands there are no vocational tests planned at the existing site between now and the end of July.
A spokesperson for the DVSA said on Monday: “The search to identify a suitable site has been very challenging but DVSA is committed to providing customers on Shetland with the best possible service whilst balancing costs.
“We are working closely with the local authority to explore options for delivering motorcycle and lorry tests on Shetland from 31 July and will provide our customers with updates as soon as we can.”
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