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Holiday chaos: Passport Office strikes and queues at Dover

Written by: Emma Lunn
Passport Office workers have begun a five-week walkout in a row over pay and pensions.

Passport workers belonging to the Public and Commercial Services union have set up picket lines at HM Passport Office sites in Durham, Southport, Belfast, Liverpool, Glasgow and Newport.

The union said strike action is being targeted to cause mass disruption and involves members working in departments which examine passports. It warned that strike action will continue as long as its demands are not met, amid anger that more efforts have been made to reach agreements with teachers and NHS workers.

About 1,000 of the Passport Office’s 4,000 employees are expected to walk out from today until 5 May.

The Home Office said the Passport Office has already processed more than 2.7 million applications this year and there were no plans to change official guidance which says it takes up to 10 weeks to get a passport.

If you need a new passport, you should get your application in as soon as possible. You can renew your passport online for £82.50 or by post for £93, after fees were hiked in February.

UK passports are valid for 10 years, but some countries have rules about how long you have left on your passport when you enter the country.

Strikes and queues

Holidaymakers aiming to get away this Easter could also be impacted by strikes by security staff at Heathrow.

Last week saw British Airways cancel a number of flights because of a 10-day strike from 31 March to 9 April by some Heathrow staff. BA has reduced its flights from the transport hub by 5% and cancelled 16 round trips, or 32 single trips, a day on average during the strike.

Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel, said: “French air traffic control strikes are also threatening wider chaos for travellers. Airlines should ensure they keep passengers informed of any potential changes to their booking as result of strike action as early as possible, and must not fail in their legal responsibility to offer travellers a refund or the option to be rebooked if their flight is cancelled, including with other airlines if necessary.”

Those holidaymakers aiming to leave the country by port should be prepared for delays through Dover after a weekend of chaos. The Port of Dover was forced to declare a critical incident this weekend after some coach passengers waited 14 hours to be processed at border controls.

A statement from the Port of Dover today claimed the backlog is now cleared. It said: “Along with the final coaches being processed through the port, all tourist cars and freight vehicles were also processed successfully.

“We continue to offer our sincere apologies to all those affected by the prolonged delays that have occurred over this weekend. We will be conducting a full review of our plans with the ferry operators early this week to ensure improvements are made ready for the forthcoming Easter weekend.”

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