JS53122555Driving a friend back to Moorside after a meeting in Consett, I noticed how dark it was on the A692 between the McDonald’s Roundabout and The Grove now that the street lights have been removed. Residents frequently use this road in the evenings to either return to Consett or head back down the hill to the Grove and Moorside. They too will have noticed that it is now far darker than before.

It is well-known that Durham County Council must make difficult decisions with less central government funding available to them in a range of areas. This has effected street lighting with dimmer light bulbs being fitted across the county and in some areas, like the A692, lighting removed completely. It is this decision to remove the lights that has given cause for concern.

Whether lit or not, the road is well-used. If you drive in this area you will always see a number of people either walking, jogging or cycling up or down the road. You will rarely see the road empty, even in the early hours of the morning.

A number of alternative measures have been suggested like installing solar powered beacons that charge during the day and illuminate the area at night. Users of this area hope something can be done to avoid this road being completely pitch black at night.

A better alternative than to walk home is to catch a lift from a friend or hail a taxi to get home safely. However, demand is high for taxis in Consett and local taxi firms are reporting difficulties in getting drivers through the required examinations. This follows a December 2014 change to the make-up of the exams drivers must pass to be approved as a licensed taxi driver in County Durham.

Durham County Council must ensure their examinations are compliant with legislation. As a license permits the driver to carry passengers anywhere within County Durham, the local authority requires that the exam adequately tests the driver’s extensive knowledge of the whole of County Durham, rather than the immediate locality covered by the taxi business they hope to work for. Obviously this presents a difficult challenge for the driver, as County Durham is a wide area with many landmarks and roads to learn.

A Freedom of Information request by one applicant, who found passing the test almost impossible, found that only 5 out of 31 attempts were successful in 2015. One local taxi firm commented that such is the difficulty of the test they are unable to expand as getting drivers through the test is so difficult. They hope that a practical solution can be found that ensures drivers have a good knowledge of the area that customers expect, but not a challenge so tough only a very small proportion of applicants successfully pass the test.

Malcolm Clarke blogs at http://malcolmclarke.blogspot.com

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