Long queues of angry people formed outside a passport office in Durham on Thursday as the system appeared overwhelmed by a surge in applicants desperate to get their new documents. Groups reportedly started queuing at 6.30am in a bid to get the papers they need to travel abroad.
Queues formed outside the city's office reportedly because it was one of the few in the country with appointments still available as the Passport Office comes under intense pressure after applications rocketed.
People from across the country flocked to Durham in a desperate attempt to sort out their passports.
One couple from southeast London made the 230mile journey to Durham overnight in a bid to get the paperwork sorted before a £4,000 holiday to Turkey with their children this weekend.
Self-employed plumber, Nathan, said: "Basically, [I] had no joy getting a passport over the last few weeks.
"Gone to the London office - no joy. On the phone - no joy. Absolute sham."
He told the BBC he made the trip on the evening of his daughter's birthday after reading advice on a Facebook forum to go to the office where passports are being held.
Nathan added that he started the passport application process on March 2, just within the 10-weeks recommended by the Government.
He said: "[I'm] very angry - very anxious as well. It's been pure worry, pure stress."
People have taken to social media to share their own experiences of delays.
Twitter user irenko_irene commented: "[M]y neighbour has spent a week hanging on the phone all day every day trying to get a passport to fly to US for her late husband’s memorial.
"Please can someone help? She is due to fly next week. No one ever calls her back."
A fellow Twitter user said on Wednesday: "I’m stood in Durham now behind over a hundred people… complete joke! Left home at 7am."
Clare_pheasant tweeted: "Two children's passports applied for on the same day, had to be sent to two different offices Glasgow and Durham.
"Glasgow office sent back within 5 weeks - 5 weeks down the line and absolutely nothing for the other one!!!"
Andrew_J_G said: "@HM_Passport is a total shambles. My wife (among many others) was turned away from her appointment in Durham (after buying train tickets and a hotel) because they don't have capacity to process my daughter's application."
The Government says about five million people put off renewing their passports during the pandemic, but with travel returning to normal levels there has been a rush in demand, causing unprecedented delays.
MPs have warned that Passport Office "chaos" has left people across the country experiencing phone hotline waits of up to nine hours, making 40 calls and also missing key family events.
The Home Office faced demands on Thursday to reveal when the backlog will be cleared and to offer compensation to those who do not have their passport applications sorted within 10 weeks.
Home Office minister, Tom Pursglove, said the 10-week target is "not guaranteed", but insisted 700 more staff will have been recruited by the summer to help.
The Government expects 9.5 million British passport applications to be dealt with this year.
Covid limits on travel saw just four million applications in 2020 and five million in 2021 by comparison.
Mr Pursglove, responding to an urgent question in the House of Commons, said nearly two million applications were processed between March and April this year.
He also insisted the vast majority of applications continue to be processed well within 10 weeks with over 90 percent of applications issued within six weeks between January and March.
The minister added that less than 1.4 percent of the passports printed last week for UK applications have been in the system for longer than 10 weeks.
Labour MP Nick Smith, who asked the urgent question, said: "A constituent told me yesterday, 'It is terrible - we are due to fly out on Sunday but are still unable to get our youngest son's passport. Every time I phone I get passed to a different department, then hold, then the phone line goes dead'.
"Another told me, 'I have called 40 times in the past week, they cut me off every time. I don't know what to do and I am breaking down at this point'.
"The facts are there are long queues outside passport offices, hours and hours spent on phone lines, and families afraid of holidays getting cancelled."