I propose to take Questions Nos. 109, 114 and 115 together.
When the Driver Theory Test (DTT) Service closed in late 2020 due to the latest restrictions, the backlog arising from the first suspension (March to June 2020) had not yet been cleared. This, coupled with the need to significantly reduce normal daily capacity to comply with occupational and public health requirements, led to further delays for those wishing to take the DTT.
The DTT was not deemed to be an essential service under Level 5 restrictions, and the service has been closed since late December 2020. The service will remain closed while level 5 restrictions remain in place. While I fully appreciate the inconvenience this poses, I am sure you will agree with me that the limiting of the spread of the virus and the safeguarding of public health takes priority.
The RSA, together with its service provider, have put plans in place to significantly increase capacity within the service when it is allowed to re-open. To cope with the initial four-month suspension, the service increased capacity from an average pre Covid19 capacity of 15,000 to over 25,000 monthly. A plan is being progressed to increase this capacity up to 50,000 per month when service resumes, to manage the backlog of customers and shorten waiting times.
In addition to the increased capacity initiative, and at the request of the Department, the RSA is also working on a plan to rollout an online driver theory test service, Pro Proctor. Pro Proctor has been trialled on a pilot basis for those taking a theory test for trucks and buses during the months of December and January. The pilot is now being evaluated and the RSA is committed to extending the service for all theory test customers during 2021. There will be a limit on the number of customers that can avail of the service during the initial rollout phase but the objective is that it should be an option for all theory test customers during later phases of the rollout, in line with enhancing access to public services. However, scaling up operations to facilitate higher numbers will take time to achieve.
It is important to recognise that there are no quick fixes and that the continuing build-up of applications as the pandemic goes on means that it will take time to return to a normal waiting time. It is also important to emphasise that the review of Level 5 restrictions will impact on how quickly the backlog plan can be delivered.