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10 June 2014 10:04
Half a million people face ruined summer holidays as a result of the passport backlog.
A backlog of passport applications is threatening to cause chaos for thousands of holidaymakers this summer.
Half a million people are currently waiting for new documents, according to some estimates, and it is feared the total could swell even more in the coming months as travellers look to soak up the rays in sunnier climes.
Reports even suggest that staff from outside the Passport Office have been drafted in to help deal with the escalating issue as applications are taking as long as two months to process in the most extreme cases.
Hundreds of holidaymakers have already missed out on pre-booked trips overseas after their passports failed to arrive before they were due to depart, leaving them out of pocket to the tune of hundreds of pounds.
Travel insurance can protect against cancellation and curtailment, so make sure you take out adequate cover when booking holidays.
The passport problems are understood to be most serious for those applying for children's passports, but Paul Pugh, the chief executive of the Passport Office, has strongly denied claims of a backlog.
He declared that more than 97% of straightforward passport renewal and child applications are being processed within the three-week target turnaround time, while more than 99% of straightforward applications are being processed within four weeks.
This is despite a period of "exceptional early summer demand" due to the improving economy and a rise in holiday bookings.
Mike Jones, from the Public and Commercial Services Union, recently wrote to Mr Pugh to demand urgent negotiations regarding pay and conditions for workers after reports emerged that staff are being forced to "paper over the cracks" of a passport backlog by working overtime.
Unions claim officials only acted when the backlog reached 350,000, by which time it was too late to make a significant impact.
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