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"Hell on roads" with new Bay Test Centre

A new super driving test centre bringing more than three times as many learner cars to the streets of Herne Bay opens on Monday. The multi-purpose centre in Broomfield is ready for action after the old venue in Sea Street closed its doors last Thursday. There are currently three tests per hour in the town but instructors say this will rise to 10 when the new centre opens.

The Broadstairs test centre also closed last week so novice drivers from Margate, Ramsgate, Birchington, Sandwich and Sheppey will all have to travel to Herne Bay to bag their licence – resulting in more than 300 extra tests a week. Driving Instructor Diana Dooner, of Diana's Driving School, will be attending an open day at the new centre today but says others may boycott it. She said:

"I can see a lot of instructors not turning up because they're not happy with the new centre. We've been kept completely in the dark by the Driving Standards Agency (DSA), who appear to want to keep the whole thing low-profile. I only found out about the opening date after reading a notice on the wall at the Broadstairs centre. It seems they've chosen to open in the winter because it's the quiet season, but come the summer the roads will be hell."

As well as driving tests, the new centre off the Thanet Way will cater for learner motorcyclists after the closure of facilities in Broadstairs. Diana says the opening could lead to a backlash against learner drivers and instructors, and fears the problem will only get worse.

"We're already being targeted by locals as a menace on the roads despite the fact we live here and pay our taxes like everyone else. There are literally hundreds of illegal cars on the streets of Herne Bay and the owners are the menaces who should be targeted. We already get grief when there are three tests an hour so imagine the hostility when this increases to 10. And I'm pretty sure the DSA will be looking to close Canterbury's test centre in the near future because it falls within the 20-mile travelling distance criteria. This will mean even more tests, more lessons and more cars clogging up the roads."

Driving Standards Agency spokesman Chris Lee said it had no intention of closing the Canterbury centre:

"The multi-purpose driving test centre in Herne Bay will offer new and improved facilities to learner riders and drivers by offering a modern, purpose-built and energy efficient building which is fully Disability Discrimination Act compliant. It also has off-road parking and an enclosed hard surface area to conduct new test manoeuvres for riders. Motorcycle testing will change substantially when a new test is implemented from March 30. A European Community Directive introduced major changes in the way we test learner motorcyclists. These changes include new manoeuvres which must be undertaken at speeds of 31mph. For road safety reasons these manoeuvres can not be carried out on public roads. Public consultation recommended, and it was agreed in 2002, that the DSA would find a network of suitable sites to conduct the off-road elements at new multi-purpose test centres. There are no plans to close the Canterbury test centre."

DSA Chief Executive Rosemary Thew said:

"The new motorbike test will contribute to road safety and the multi-purpose test centre in Herne Bay fits into our overall vision of improving facilities for riders and drivers across Great Britain."

thisiskent 21st Jan 2009

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