STUDENTS learning to drive in the Basingstoke area face a wait of five months to take a test.

And some learner drivers have been sent to other towns for a driving test, such as Reading or Winchester, because there are no slots available in Basingstoke.

The Daily Mail recently highlighted a four-month wait at some test centres, attributing the problem to the sudden rush of applicants who couldn't afford lessons during the credit-crunch years and the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), the Government body responsible for managing driving tests, struggling to cope with the impact of budget cuts.

A Basingstoke driving instructor, who did not want to be named, said some of his students had been forced to book their test in other areas, adding: "They have to go and take their driving test in an area that they don't know. Plus it costs them more money because they have to get there. It's very frustrating. I feel so sorry for the pupils. They are waiting until Christmas or aren't able to book a test at all."

The DVSA confirmed that the current waiting time for driving tests in Basingstoke, at the centre in Brighton Hill, is 20 weeks.

Phil Lloyd, DVSA head of operations, said: "Demand for driving tests is increasing, and we acknowledge that waiting times are currently higher than we would like in some areas. We are working to address this as quickly as possible - we are in the process of recruiting more examiners. In the meantime we are temporarily bringing in examiners from other areas wherever we can. We are sorry for any inconvenience."

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