Learner drivers cause Norwich traffic headache

Peter WalshThey are often the bane of many people's journeys, but today Norwich's bus drivers and driving instructors were on a collision course amid claims learners are causing delays on key city routes.Peter Walsh

They are often the bane of many people's journeys, but today Norwich's bus drivers and driving instructors were on a collision course amid claims learners are causing delays on key city routes.

A Norwich transport group, whose members include bus drivers, has submitted an official complaint that learners carrying out manoeuvres in an estate close to the city are slowing them up on a key route to the hospital.

The Norwich and Norfolk Transport Action Group claims the number 24 First bus service which serves Thorpe St Andrew and the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital has been affected by learner drivers using roads in the area to practice their skills.

However, today driving instructors hit back at the claims, arguing the delays were no different to having to wait at a set of traffic lights.

The bizarre row is unlikely to strike much of a chord with Norwich drivers, used to having to wait behind not just learner drivers, but buses too.

The route in question, which is close to the Norwich Practical Driving Test Centre at the nearby Broadland Business Park, goes through Pilling Road, Gordon Avenue, Hillcrest Road, Beechwood Avenue, Spinney Road, and South Hill Road.

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As shown by our picture, the streets have proved popular with learner drivers with buses sometimes coming up against five or six learners on the same road leading to delays for buses.

The transport group has called on the Driving Standards Agency, which delivers driving tests throughout the country, to intervene to try and help stop delays to buses by urging instructors not to clog up route for public transport and other road users.

A spokesman said: 'We have become increasingly concerned at the behaviour of many local driving instructors who are in the habit of taking their pupils out and about in Norwich to practice various driving manoeuvres.

'The problem is that many of them are choosing primary bus routes to carry out these manoeuvres and as a result are causing delays and disruption to local bus services which are already running to tight schedules and don't need any further delays.

'Buses turning into Hillcrest Avenue and other affected roads can sometimes come up against five or six learner drivers on just that one road, carrying out three point turns and other manoeuvres. Buses suffer quite enough delay in the normal course of their journeys without coming up against additional delays and hazards which, with a little forethought, are clearly avoidable.'

The group has received a letter from the DSA which states that while it cannot dictate to driving instructors where they can and cannot drive, it will contact the centre manager to ask that instructors are urged to 'consider the impact their activities are having'.

The letter stated: 'As with all test centres, Norwich Test Centre uses a number of pre-determined routes. These routes are designed to make sure a candidate encounters the various road and traffic conditions during their test.

'However, in the interests of road safety, instructors should be teaching their pupils to drive on all types of road and under different conditions, not to simply follow test routes.'

It added: 'I will contact the test centre manager and ask that every reasonable opportunity be taken to urge driving instructors to consider the impact their activities are having in the area.'

Kim Blake, of Blake's Driving Tuition based in Norwich and Fakenham, who has been an instructor for 20 years, said they had always used roads in that area, even before the test centre moved.

He said that he tried to ensure pupils completed manoeuvres in the 'minimum safe amount of time to aid public transport'.

He said: 'The average manoeuvre in such an area will only take about 30 seconds - you wait longer at a set of traffic lights.'

Richard McGreevy, who runs Richard McGreevy Driver Training from Horstead, near Norwich, said the area was popular with driving instructors, but most tried to do all they could to consider public transport and other road users.

He added: 'The majority of driving instructors are very sympathetic people and have no wish to inconvenience our fellow road users.'

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