Tuesday, 2 March 2004

Questions (59, 60, 61, 62)

John Bruton

Question:

126 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Transport the plans he has to address the driving test backlog; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6620/04]

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Olwyn Enright

Question:

148 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Transport his plans to address the driving test backlog; when he plans to introduce legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6601/04]

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John Deasy

Question:

150 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Transport the plans he has to reduce the waiting time for a driving test in both the Waterford city and Dungarvan, County Waterford test centres to bring them in line with other test centres in the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6520/04]

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Kathleen Lynch

Question:

168 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Transport the number of applicants awaiting driving tests at the latest date for which figures are available; the current waiting time in each test centre; the efforts his Department is making to clear the backlog of driving test applications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6787/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 126, 148, 150 and 168 together.

The number of applicants awaiting a driving test at 25 February 2004 is 120,058. This is a reduction of some 5,000 on the figure relating to May 2003. Of these, 21,103 have been given test appointments and a further 13,715 have indicated that they are currently not available to be tested. The current average waiting time and numbers awaiting a test at each driving test centre as at 25 February 2004 is set out in the following table.

The current waiting times are due to the unprecedented level of some 234,000 test applications received in 2003. This represents a 21% increase on 2002 applications. However, indications are that applications have now fallen to normally expected levels. I anticipate that the current waiting times will improve over the coming year.

Sanction for a bonus scheme for driver testers was obtained from the Department of Finance in May 2003. Under the terms of the scheme set out by the Department of Finance, the bonus scheme terminated in November 2003. I have requested my officials to examine the potential for initiating a further bonus scheme in order to address the backlog.

In addition to the bonus scheme, eight retired driver testers were re-employed with effect from 13 October 2003. Driver testers continue to deliver additional tests by working overtime on Saturdays and at lunch time.

Preparation of legislation to establish the Driver Testing and Standards Authority, which will take on responsibility for conducting driving tests and will have more flexibility to respond to variations in demand, is at an advanced stage and I expect to be in a position to submit the text of the Bill to Government shortly.

Centre

Numbers awaiting a test

Average weeks waiting

North Leinster

Finglas

8,288

33

Dundalk

2,948

38

Mullingar

1,632

38

Navan

4,463

44

Raheny

7,337

43

South Leinster

Churchtown /Rathgar

11,212

40

Gorey

1,985

39

Naas

6,604

48

Tullamore

1,632

35

Wicklow

2,355

47

Tallaght

8,811

49

West

Athlone

676

8

Birr

938

28

Castlebar

2,230

33

Clifden

350

14

Ennis

818

11

Galway

2,643

30

Loughrea

834

11

Roscommon

902

26

Tuam

1,105

29

North West

Ballina

1,153

29

Buncrana

562

22

Carrick-on-Shannon

1,212

38

Cavan

1,948

44

Donegal

1,021

29

Letterkenny

1,843

30

Longford

1,010

36

Monaghan

1,248

41

Sligo

1,347

27

South East

Carlow

2,522

43

Clonmel

2,031

42

Dungarvan

1,820

49

Kilkenny

2,494

41

Nenagh

728

43

Portlaoise

1,512

39

Thurles

1,286

46

Tipperary

1,153

49

Waterford

3,486

47

Wexford

2,435

37

South West

Cork

6,615

31

Killarney

1,988

36

Kilrush

479

29

Limerick

3,920

37

Mallow

2,034

32

Newcastle West

1,610

32

Shannon

1,027

32

Skibbereen

1,799

38

Tralee

2,012

40

Note: The average waiting time is derived having regard to waiting times experienced by individual applicants who have undergone a driving test over the previous four week period in the test centre.