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At just four weeks, Carlisle boasts UK’s shortest wait time to take a driving test

Lawrence Allan

Written By Lawrence Allan

New driver on motorway
  • Learner drivers face an average wait time of nearly 14 weeks to sit a practical driving test, but we've found the areas where you can likely get a test sooner
  • Carlisle is the best place in the UK for driving test waiting times with learners getting a test in just four weeks, according to DVSA data (between April 2020 and March 2021)
  • Galashiels is the second-best area in the UK with new drivers waiting on average five weeks

Carlisle has the UK’s shortest waiting time to sit a practical driving test, research by heycar has discovered. At just four weeks, learner drivers in Carlisle will wait considerably less time than learners across the rest of the country — who will wait nearly 14 weeks on average.

The Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have increased the average delay from nine weeks last year to 13.8 weeks in 2021.

A Freedom of Information request by heycar found that the average waiting time for a driving test in 2021 is 14 weeks. However, when we drilled into the regional numbers, we found that the maximum waiting time can increase to a whopping 18 weeks.

As practical driving tests return to England and Wales on 22 April (tests resume on 6 May for those in Scotland) we can tell you the shortest and longest times you can expect to wait for the driving test backlog to clear where you live — across England, Scotland and Wales.

Behind Carlisle, with a wait of just five weeks, is Galashiels in the Scottish borders — according to official DVSA figures obtained by heycar through a Freedom Of Information Request.

Kendal, Boston, Inverness and Pembroke Dock are among towns that boast a six-week delay — while learners need only wait seven weeks in Whitby, King’s Lynn, Dundee, Elgin, Cardigan and Carmarthen.

The longest wait to sit a driving test in Britain is now 18 weeks, with the unwanted achievement shared by test centre locations including Halifax, Cheadle, Isle of Scilly, Crieff and Llandrindod Wells.

Bradford, Northwich, Isle of Mull and Bristol are among the places where waits stretch to 17 weeks. Learners in Bridgend and Llantrisant face delays of 16 weeks, while it’s 15 weeks for those in Merthyr Tydfil and Newtown.

In addition, we can also reveal the impact coronavirus has had on test cancellations — which have increased 400% in three years. The year 2018/2019 saw 65,522 cancellations, but this figure grew to 152,082 in 2019/2020 before reaching 241,127 throughout 2020/2021.

The data — recorded between April 2020 and March 2021 — also shows that there were considerably more tests cancelled from April to June 2020 than July to September 2020. These dates coincide with the general timescale of the lockdowns across the UK, with the first lockdown measures legally coming into force for the first time on 26 March 2020 and easing in early July the same year.

A DVSA spokesperson told us: "We have put measures in place to increase practical driving tests when it is safe for them to resume. 

"These include offering overtime and annual leave buyback to examiners, asking all those qualified to conduct tests, but who do not do so as part of their current day job, to return to conducting tests, and conducting out of hours testing (such as on public holidays).

"In addition, we have also started a recruitment campaign to increase the number of examiners. The aim is to increase testing capacity and reduce the backlog as quickly as possible, whilst maintaining a COVID-secure service for our customers and examiners."