Woman risks missing dream holiday after 16 week wait for passport renewal as chaos continues

Gilly Squires has spent more than four hours on hold to the passport office, she tells ITV News Consumer Editor Chris Choi

ITV News has been told that the chronic delays in passport applications could get even worse, as one woman said she'd already waited 16 weeks and been on hold to the helpline for up to four hours.

There were long queues forming at the passport office in Liverpool on Thursday.

Some of those queuing said they had waited on hold to the helpline for hours and had turned up in-person in desperation. One woman told ITV News she was forced to take the six-hour round trip, changing trains six times, with a broken foot, in order to get her passport.

For others the wait continues. Gilly Squire has called the helpline several times - once spending four hours on hold - since putting her application in 16 weeks ago. She has a dream holiday coming up in July but still has no passport.

Ms Squire has already missed two work trips because of the long delay in getting her application processed. She said the government should have "been ready to deal with the rise in applications".

Gilly Squire has waited 16 weeks for a passport. Credit: ITV News

The Home Office said record demand is behind the long wait times after people delayed applying for a new passport during the pandemic when foreign travel was largely banned - the number of valid UK passports fell by more than 2.5 million during the first two calendar years of the Covid-19 pandemic.

A Passport Office spokesperson said: "We urge people who need a new passport to apply for one as soon as possible, with the vast majority of all passports applications are being dealt with well within 10 weeks. 

"To deal with this demand, we have increased staff numbers by 500 since April 2021. This has helped us to handle more applications than ever before, with more than one million passport applications processed in March 2022.

"The passport advice line is being delivered by Teleperformance which is in the process of recruiting additional staff to better service customer queries."

The passport office advises travellers to apply 10 weeks in advance, but ITV News research suggests some people have waited almost twice that already.

New freedom of information data shows 4.5 million British passports are due to expire before the school holidays in July.

The delays have forced some people to cancel longed for holidays, sometimes losing thousands of pounds. Research has warned that delays in passport processing could cost £1.1 billion in cancelled trips this summer.

"I've come down, a six-hour round trip and six changes on the train, just to get here, to get it. I've got a broken foot" - those waiting in the queue at the Liverpool passport office said the situation was a "nightmare"

The anger and frustration were noticeable in the queue in Liverpool.

"It's a complete nightmare," said one woman. "It's a disgrace, all these poor people."

"They didn't call me," said another. "So I've come down, a six-hour round trip and six changes on the train, just to get here, to get it. I've got a broken foot."

Another woman, who was going away on Saturday morning, told ITV News she had been waiting 11 weeks and had made 100 plus phone calls just to be able to get an appointment.