Long queues at Peterborough passport office ahead of holiday season

Long delays at the passport office in Peterborough on Monday, May 16

Long delays at the passport office in Peterborough on Monday, May 16 - Credit: Joe Giddens/PA

Travellers and tourists have been pictured queuing outside Peterborough's passport office.

After a debate in Parliament about the notorious 10-week wait for passports last week (Thursday, May 12), PA news agency released pictures showing long queues outside the Aragon Court passport office on Monday, May 16.

The delay processing passports emerged in April 2022, when HM Passport Office estimated around five million people put off applying for a passport during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Labour MP Nick Smith, who represents Blaenau Gwent in Wales, tabled an urgent question in the House of Commons, calling on the government to resolve the backlog.

Mr Smith said: "A constituent told me yesterday, 'It is terrible – we are due to fly out on Sunday but are still unable to get our youngest son'’s passport. Every time I phone I get passed to a different department, then hold, then the phone line goes dead'.

"Another told me, 'I have called 40 times in the past week, they cut me off every time. I don’t know what to do and I am breaking down at this point'.

"The facts are there are long queues outside passport offices, hours and hours spent on phone lines, and families afraid of holidays getting cancelled."

The government estimates it will process more than nine million passports this year

The government estimates it will process more than nine million passports this year - Credit: Joe Giddens/PA

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When Covid-19 broke out, foreign travel was banned to stop the spread of the pandemic.

Foreign holidays and leisure travel abroad resumed for UK tourists one year ago - on May 17, 2021.

In the East, thousands of employees rely on a foreign healthy travel industry. Stansted Airport, near Cambridge and London, is the region's largest single-site employer, with 10,200 jobs across 200 on-campus companies pre-pandemic.

Daisy and Haiya, who flew from Stansted Airport on May 17, 2021, when Covid-19 holiday restrictions eased

Daisy and Haiya, who flew from Stansted Airport on May 17, 2021, when Covid-19 holiday restrictions eased - Credit: Will Durrant

Tom Pursglove, a junior Home Office minister, said: "Since April 2021, 500 new staff have joined and a further 700 will join by the summer.

"As a result, the vast majority of passport applications are being processed within the 10-week timeframe and more than 90 percent within six weeks. Less than 1.4pc of the passports printed last week for UK applications had been in the system for longer than 10 weeks.

"With a record number of applications in the system, customer inquiries have increased accordingly.

"However, the passport advice line, which is run by Teleperformance, is not currently meeting the needs of passport customers. Clearly, that is not acceptable.

"The Home Office has clear standards for the level of service that suppliers are expected to provide.

"HM Passport Office has engaged with Teleperformance at its most senior levels to emphasise the need to significantly improve performance as soon as possible."

The office estimates it will turn over 9.5 million passports this year.

Government advice is to order passports as far in advance as possible.

"It is important to stress, you should not book travel until you have a valid passport – your new passport will not have the same passport number as your old one," an HM Passport Office statement reads.

Adults and children who are renewing or replacing their passports, and children requesting their first passport, can skip the 10-week wait by using the one-week fast-track service.

This can only be done in person at Peterborough, Belfast, Durham, Glasgow, Liverpool, London, or Newport.

Ordinary applications can be made online: https://www.gov.uk/apply-renew-passport

The government's passport advice phone number is on 0300 222 0000.