Long delays for driver tests at Service NSW service centres in St George and Sutherland Shire

Long delays: A queue outside the Service NSW service centre at Miranda recently. Picture: Chris Lane
Long delays: A queue outside the Service NSW service centre at Miranda recently. Picture: Chris Lane

People are waiting up to six weeks to sit the test for a learner driver's licence in St George and Sutherland Shire while those wishing to undertake a provisional driver test are waiting more than three weeks due to delays at Service NSW service centres.

Anyone wishing to get their L plates must first sit a driver knowledge test at a Service NSW service centre.

There is only one Service NSW service centre in Sutherland Shire - at Miranda - while there are two in St George - at Hurstville and Rockdale.

Recent attempts to book a driver knowledge test at any of the three local Service NSW centres resulted in a six-week wait.

A spokesman for Service NSW who was responding to inquiries from the Leader said the average wait times for a driver knowledge test was 32 business days at Miranda service centre, 34 business days at Rockdale service centre and 30 days at Hurstville as a July 31.

Those wishing to sit a provisional driver test faced a wait of 22 business days at Miranda - compared with nine business days during the same period last year.

At Rockdale, people faced a wait of 21 business days, compared with 18 days the previous year.

The spokesman said there were no comparative figures available for the driver knowledge test.

Provisional driver tests are not offered atHurstville Service Centre.

He said wait times changed daily.

The long wait times have angered residents, especially those wishing to get their L plates on or close to their 16th birthday - often seen as a right of passage for young people.

The delays coincide with a move by Service NSW to reduce operating hours at all 34 of its service centres in metropolitan Sydney.

Service NSW announced in March that the operating hours would be reduced "due to the impacts of COVID-19 (coronavirus) crisis".

The hours of operation were reduced from 8am to 6pm, Monday to Friday, and 8.30am to 3pm Saturdays to 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, and 8.30am to 12.30pm to Saturdays - a reduction of 12.5 hours a week.

"Service NSW regrets any inconvenience to customers caused by the reduced hours which are in place on a temporary basis and will be reviewed as COVID-19 impacts become clearer," it said.

Driving tests across NSW were also postponed at the end of March due to COVID-19 and were only reinstated on July 1.

Service NSW said that as a result of the more than three-month postponement of driving tests, it was experiencing "a high demand for this service".

"Due to the high volume of requests, tests may book out quicker than usual [and] we are continuing to monitor the service and are releasing new bookings regularly," it said.

Service NSW has hired "an additional 50 driver testers across the state to increase the number of tests available to customers".

An estimated 4800 driver tests were performed every week prior to the shutdown, according to the office of State Minister for Customer Service Victor Dominello.

It said planning was under way to increase capacity to approximately 6500 tests per week to address the backlog.

The Service NSW spokesman said the operational changes at its service centres were the result of "changed customer arrival patterns" during COVID-19 and were "regularly reviewed to ensure we provide the best level of customer service, while keeping our customers and staff safe".

"Service NSW understands getting your licence for the first time is a major milestone for a young person, while many others rely on their licence for employment or mobility," the spokesman said.

"To ensure 1.5 metre social distancing between customers, not all computers previously used for Driver Knowledge Testing (DKT) are able to be operated.

"To mitigate the current wait times, Service NSW is developing the trial of a screens solution around DKT computers which would enable more computers to be booked for testing and reduce wait times, while ensuring compliance with COVID-19 guidelines.

"Appropriate safeguards remain in place to help stop the spread of COVID-19, such as disposable seat covers, hand sanitiser and gloves.

"Customers currently need to sign a statutory declaration confirming they are well enough to take the test and temperature checks are being introduced for all driving test applicants."

He said customers wishing to progress their licence from P1 to P2 and then onto an unrestricted licence could now do so online.