Halfords will host driving tests to tackle waiting times

Learner drivers will be able to take their practical tests from branches of Halfords from next month, the Government has announced.

It is the first time that learner drivers in England will be able to take tests from private sites, rather than government centres, although in Scotland practical driving tests have already been offered from the car parks of two branches of Asda.

The Driving Standards Agency, which runs driving tests in the UK, was at pains to point out that its examiners will still be in charge of conducting tests. A spokesman for the DSA also denied that the plans would lead to state-run test centres closing.

The Road Safety minister, Stephen Hammond, said: "We are working with Halfords to provide a more local service for driving test candidates."

Halfords will see the first learner take a test at its store in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, next month, after which 14 other branches will start offering tests.

The DSA added that it is also hoping to see tests take place at fire stations and university campuses.

Halfords claims that everyone in Britain is within a 20-minute drive of a Halfords store, while driving test wait times can be up to three months, depending on the location.

Mr Hammond added: "This is a great example of working with private-sector partners to provide an important local service that is convenient as well as being cost effective."

Paul McClenaghan, Halfords' commercial director, said: "We're always seeking new ways in which to enhance our offer, so working with the Driving Standards Agency is a natural fit for the business and extends the help we are able to provide to motorists."

Halfords expanded into the car repairs business three years ago, when it bought Nationwide Autocentres in a £73m deal. Nationwide's 224 outlets were then rebranded as Halfords Autocentres.