LEARNERS in Peebles are facing a frustrating 18-week wait for driving tests – a month longer than the national average.

The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) said it hoped to address the lengthy delay “shortly” after it launched a successful recruitment campaign.

But Peebles Driving School instructor Ian Cross said the current situation is “tough”, with his students unable to see “any light at the end of the tunnel”.

“There have always been issues around waiting times so that’s not new, but 18 weeks is particularly long,” he said. “When I first moved to Peebles 14 years ago it was eight to 10 weeks, which at that time was considered lengthy.

“At the moment there is only one examiner covering Peebles and that is only on one day per week. So that means there are only about seven tests every week. And because Peebles is wrongly perceived to be easier, a lot of instructors from Edinburgh book tests there so on a Wednesday you often see cars you don’t recognise on the test routes.

“That makes it really tough on my clients, many of who are going to university in September and can’t book a test before that which means they can’t see any light at the end of the tunnel.”

The demand for driving tests has been caused by a backlog due to the coronavirus pandemic, with students across the UK unable to book practical exams.

The DVSA – the official body that carries out driving tests in Britain – revealed it has recruited extra examiners for the Peebles centre, just off Rosetta Road, in a bid to cut the average waiting time.

A spokesperson said that the body was also carrying out tests out-of-hours and on public holidays.

Mr Cross said he was keen to see additional examiners deployed to the town but said he was unsure about the viability of extra hours.

“Pre-COVID, a couple of extra examiners were sent to Peebles and that cleared the waiting list so I have no doubt that extra examiners would help.

“And of course Peebles is growing and the test centre is part of the infrastructure.

“Having tests at night and on weekends sounds like a good idea but that would mean instructors would have to work six or even seven days per week in addition to longer hours because we always want to do the best for our clients.

“I’m not sure how viable that would be.

“So really it’s a combination of things.”

A DVSA spokesperson said: “We are doing all we can to provide learners with as many tests as possible and bring average waiting times down to less than 10 weeks by the end of the year.

"To tackle the high demand for tests we have introduced a number of measures including, recruiting an additional 300 examiners, conducting out of hours testing such as at weekends and on public holidays and asking all those qualified to conduct tests.”

New recruits are also being brought in at centres in Galashiels and Musselburgh.