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Driving instructor warns of delays as lessons resume

Alan Hutchinson faces a backlog in work after coronavirus restrictions.

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Alan Hutchinson of Abba Driving School in Lisburn, Northern Ireland (Peter Morrison/PA)

Alan Hutchinson of Abba Driving School in Lisburn, Northern Ireland (Peter Morrison/PA)

Alan Hutchinson of Abba Driving School in Lisburn, Northern Ireland (Peter Morrison/PA)

A driving instructor has welcomed getting back to work but warned the industry is about a year behind due to the coronavirus pandemic.

As driving lessons and tests were permitted to restart on Friday following the latest lockdown, Alan Hutchinson of Abba Driving School had a good start to the day with one of his students passing her test on her first attempt.

Her test had been rescheduled seven times due to the pandemic and coronavirus regulations.

“We started last year, right at the beginning of the pandemic starting in March, then we had the first lockdown and since then she has booked seven tests that have had to be cancelled so this was the first one she was able to take,” she said.

With a backlog of people waiting to sit their practical driving test, Lisburn-based Mr Hutchinson said there is “a lot of frustration out there”.

“We were in lockdown during November, and only got 10 days work in before December, we really are about a year behind now from where we should be,” he said.

“There is a lot of frustration out there, trying to get the test dates in and get going again.

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“There are a lot of pupils scrambling around trying to get a test date, hoping it will stick that we won’t go into lockdown again, and very much not getting the practice in before the test.

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Alan Hutchinson (Peter Morrison/PA)

Alan Hutchinson (Peter Morrison/PA)

PA

Alan Hutchinson (Peter Morrison/PA)

“It’s frustrating trying to get the balance right to get a test date and get the practice in as well.”

There is also a backlog of people waiting to book lessons, but until people pass their test, it is hard for instructors to be able to teach all that want to book lessons.

“The key to everything now is concentrating on getting people through the test to make a space for someone else, it’s flat out at the moment, it really is.”

Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon has announced extended opening hours at test centres to tackle the current backlog.

Mr Hutchinson welcomed the move, adding: “The backlog is out there but what more can you do, we have had the coronavirus pandemic, we have lived through it and now we have to live with it.”

He said there also an issue for people for whom English is not their first language being unable to sit their tests as they cannot have a translator in the car.

He said it is not possible to socially distance in the car with his students, as a close contact business, but they wear masks, sanitising the car and keep windows open for ventilation.

“As the vaccines are rolling out, I’ve had my Pfizer vaccine, I’m feeling a bit more protected.

“That’s really where the future lies, encouraging everyone to get their jab.”


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