Eelc. Telegraph: Final (?) UK passport fiasco updategreenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread
ISSUE 1531 Wednesday 4 August 1999
End of the line in sight for passport applicants, By Caroline Davies
THE Passport Agency is aiming to clear the backlog of applications within a fortnight.
Emergency measures, introduced during the chaos in June and July when more than 500,000 passports were delayed and would-be travellers had to queue for hours, appear to be working. Almost all applications for passports for travel in August have now been dealt with. A Home Office spokesman said: "There is now a three-and-a-half week to four-week buffer."
August and September are, traditionally, quieter months for the agency, which sees business peak during June and July. But the turnaround time of non-urgent passports, those beyond September, is still well above average at most of the six passport offices in Britain.
In Glasgow, for example, the average processing time for a non-urgent application is 49 days, and in Liverpool it is 43 days. Offices at Newport and Peterborough fare slightly better at 30 days and 25 days respectively. In Belfast it is taking eight days and in London just five.
At the end of last week the backlog was 336,000 applications - a reduction of 20 per cent on the previous week. The spokesman said: "They are now going to transfer work from Glasgow to Newport to allow the overall turnaround time from that office to be dropped. They are on top of the situation. It is a similar position in Liverpool and the other offices are almost back to normal."
Out of the £100,000 set aside by ministers for compensation claims for missed holidays, so far just £37,000 has been claimed. The crisis-stricken agency became the first body to be stripped of its Charter Mark for good service following the chaos caused to thousands of holidaymakers by the chronic delays.
A new computer system set up at the Liverpool and Newport offices was blamed for the backlog, as well as new regulations demanding children under 16 must have their own passports if not already on a family one. Thousands were forced to queue daily as the turnaround times for applications escalated from the target 10 days to more than seven weeks in some parts of the country. Emergency measures were taken to overcome the problems.
Four hundred staff were employed by the agency to deal with the backlog, and a call centre was set up to field calls and deal with urgent requests. Extensions to out of date passports were made available through main post offices.
Would-be travellers queuing for hours outside passport offices have been given luncheon vouchers.
The £1.25 vouchers and numbered tickets were handed out so people could go off to get refreshments and return to their places in the queue. Vouchers totalling £5,000 have so far been handed out, mainly during the height of the crisis when huge queues stretched outside passport offices.
25 July 1999: Computer firm fined #4.5m over passport bungle chaos; 24 July 1999: Agency pays for chaos over passports; 4 July 1999: Minister admits passport chaos blunder; 26 June 1999: Passport queue lengthens to 530,000 as crisis grows.
-- Old Git (email@example.com), August 04, 1999