Letter: Passport to fury

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Like Robert Handyside (letter, 17 May) I had the depressing experience of spending a week phoning the number given for the Newport Passport Office, only to find that, when I finally got through to a real person, I was speaking not to the Newport office at all but to a centralised answering service. I was given a different number for the Newport office, and invited to start again.

I then discovered another facet to their service which must have contributed to the award of their Charter Mark. On the passport application form you are invited to give your date of travel, with the implication that this information will guide the processing of your application. When, just three days before my date of travel, I found a second freak hole in cyberspace and spoke to a real person in the Newport Office, it was clear that, after two months of holding my application, my date of travel had not been picked up. I would shortly have been waving my family off on holiday and spending the time at home on my own.

To be fair to the Passport Office, after they rather gingerly enquired if I might be willing to drive from Hampshire over to Newport to collect my passport, they got it to me in time by post. But questions remain. Why can't they employ more telephone staff? Or why can't they process passports more quickly, thus reducing the number of phone calls needed? Why don't they use the travel date information they ask for? And, when all their lines are engaged and they won't hold your call in a queue, why do they insist on answering the phone just to tell you that?

Dr NIGEL VAUX HALLIDAY

Liss, Hampshire

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