Tuesday, 29 September 2020

Ceisteanna (256)

Catherine Connolly

Ceist:

256. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Transport when driver tests will resume in Clifden, County Galway; the reason for the delay in resuming tests at the centre; the number of persons awaiting a test at the centre; the efforts being made to reduce the waiting times at the centre; the reason the RSA continues to take fees from applicants in circumstances in which tests are not available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27283/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

Specific details on individual test centres and the fees process are an operational matter for the Road Safety Authority. I have therefore referred this part of the Question to the Authority for direct reply. I would ask the Deputy to contact my office if a response has not been received within ten days.

As you can appreciate Covid 19 has had a profound effect on the delivery of many services. The Driver Test service has seen its weekly capacity reduced significantly in order to comply with occupational and public health requirements. As an example, due to the additional hygiene and sanitation procedures that are now absolutely necessary, each testing slot now takes a much longer time to complete. In addition to this, the number of testers working in any centre at the one time has to be reduced to ensure physical distancing rules can be maintained.

Those who had appointments cancelled due to Covid 19 are being prioritised in the first instance. Initially, only those who are frontline healthcare workers will be deemed eligible for an urgent test slot. This approach for prioritising customers will be kept under review as the RSA moves through the service resumption.

My Department is remaining in close contact with the RSA who are examining ways of increasing the number of tests within the current health constraints. One option is the employment of additional testers, something which has been done in the past to address backlogs. However, I would like to stress, many of the issues impacting on the delivery of service are concerned with the throughput of centres themselves in light of the restrictions, rather than on the availability of staff.

In the meantime, my Department has give approval to the RSA to retain 18 driver testers on temporary contracts due to expire in October and November, and to rehire up to 19 testers whose contracts expired in May.

While I regret the inconvenience caused by the necessity to adhere to the restrictions imposed on us by NPHET and other experts, the safety of the public, whether through contracting Covid or through deaths or injuries on our roads, must be of paramount importance.