Driving test backlog set to be eased
One of many issues emerging during the Covid pandemic was the loss of normal driver-training and assessment.
It's a problem that has faced a significant number of those wanting to pass their theory and practical tests in my large rural constituency.
I have written and held discussions with DVLA on behalf constituents who require a licence for work, study and a range of personal reasons.
I'm, therefore, pleased that as restrictions ease extra resources are being put in place by the UK Government nationally which should see testing fully resume with extra examiners recruited and hours extended.
In our region I was delighted that the agency has agreed to open a new theory test centre at Newton Stewart -- in addition to the existing practical tests held in the town.
This should see the backlog start to ease from early September at the local centres, including in Dumfries, and I'm hopeful that national issues, involving staffing shortages at the DVLA's Swansea HQ, will be addressed.
I'm encouraged that progress is being made and wish all aspiring drivers in Dumfries and Galloway success in obtaining their licence as soon as possible.
Legacy bridge options should be reviewed
A national inspection and action programme, including infilling old disused railway bridge arches with concrete, has reached Dumfries and Galloway but triggered some concerns and questions.
In one case in my constituency a bridge over the former Dumfries to Stranraer Railway at Lochanhead, near Beeswing, has been identified for an infill scheme designed to make the structure safe as an alternative to significantly more expensive repairs.
I've been approached by constituents worried that the infill concept will create a significant additional obstacle to any future reopening of the railway and I've written raising the issue with Highways England, which has responsibility for such legacy structures on behalf of the Department of Transport.
With strategic transport across the UK currently under review, including in our region, I'm keen to clarify the situation and I've asked officials to also consider all alternative options.
Training and skills key to recovery
As we edge towards economic recovery and emerging in the not too distant future from the pandemic downturn, training for the most relevant skills remains a key priority.
In my ministerial role I was interested to visit recently Russell Roof Tiles, near Lochmaben, to talk about the training needs of companies planning a careful strategy for the future.
A valued employer in the region, the long-established firm is investing substantial sums in upgrading their manufacturing process and with currently more than 70 existing workers are also recruiting further staff to train in skilled machine work.
It was an interesting visit, which highlighted the fact practical skills are equally as important as academic ability, and illustrates how the UK Government's Plan for Jobs must offer the right support at the right time for businesses wishing to upskill and expand.