Bournemouth driving test centre closure criticised
Learner drivers and instructors have criticised the permanent closure of Bournemouth's driving test centre.
The Gillam Road centre has been closed since flooding in February and the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has said it will not reopen.
The Driving Instructors Association (DIA) said it was causing "huge inconvenience and extra expense".
The DVSA said a review found the centre faced "prohibitive repair and maintenance costs".
The closure means the nearest place for candidates to sit tests is in Poole, about six miles (10km) away.
An online petition opposing the move had been launched by the Bournemouth branch of the DIA which said "already stressed candidates" faced extra travel time and some had already missed tests.
"Candidates now have to make long journeys through some of the most congested roads in the country, just to get to take their tests," it said.
"Even before learners are ready for their test at least some training now needs to be carried out in far-off Poole."
'Costing more money'
It added instructors were incurring additional time and fuel costs in getting to alternative test sites and teaching the routes where tests are carried out.
Sophie, 18, from Bransgore, who took on a part-time job to pay for driving lessons, said the closure made driving "a lot harder" as a large part of her lesson time was spent driving to and from Poole.
"To be able to drive as safely as I can, I'm having to practise more over there and it's costing me more money because of the additional lessons we're having over in Poole," she said.
DVSA operations director Richard Hennessey said: "Traffic congestion in Bournemouth means that by moving tests to Poole we will be able to better test candidates on all parts of the new driving test, helping make Dorset roads even safer.
"It is vital that learners are prepared to drive safely on all types of road before taking their test, rather than simply learning driving test centre routes."