A new passport printer for Cork would cost up to 6 million euros
A new passport printer for Cork would cost between 5 and 6 million euros to install and 600,000 euros a year to operate, the Foreign Office told a committee of the Oireachtas.
All passport printing is done in Dublin, but there have been repeated calls for a second printer to be installed in Cork following large backlogs following the lifting of pandemic travel restrictions.
Foreign Secretary Simon Coveney said in June that a second printer was largely unnecessary because of the reduction in this backlog.
The Dáil’s public accounts committee asked the Foreign Office ahead of the Oireachtas vacation for an outline of what such a move might cost.
The return of correspondence by the department, seen by thetold the committee that the Passport Service estimates that the initial capital cost of purchasing and installing a new “high security passport printing machine, automated mail dispatch machine and associated facilities is between 5 and 6 million euros”.
He said that while the machines themselves will cost around 3 million euros, the infrastructure required to install and operate these machines “is considerable and includes structural work on the building in which they are to be located, such as anti-vibration reinforced concrete floors, the construction of a secure storage room with vault and a separate technical room for the chiller, compressor and chalk filter, as well as plumbing, evacuation and ducts “.
The machines also need what is described as “a sophisticated cooling system” as they must operate in a controlled air environment.
“Due to the specialist nature of these industrial machines, spare parts should also be purchased in advance and kept on hand so that any downtime is limited in the event of machine failure. machinery and the provision of the associated infrastructure is estimated at an additional 2 million euros.”
In addition to the capital investment, “highly sophisticated” machines require expert engineers to be on site during operation to maintain and repair the machines and repair them if necessary.
The annual cost of operating and maintaining the printers is estimated at €600,000 per year.
The service also says that justifying such an expense may not be necessary, since rush appointments represent only a tiny fraction of those who obtain or renew their passports each year.
“In the relatively small number of cases where citizens need to travel urgently and do not have a valid passport, the Dublin and Cork Passport Offices offer an urgent passport renewal appointment service.
“The Dublin and Cork Passport Service offices have handled over 9,000 urgent appointments so far in 2022. These urgent appointment requests represent just 1% of the total 860,000 requests received by passport service since January of this year.”
Current turnaround times for first requests are around 25 days — up from 40 days due to what the department called “a significant investment” — with simple 10-day renewals. The Post Passport system, renamed Passport Express, is currently around eight weeks old.
“The Passport Department is working to further reduce this timeframe to 20 working days,” he said.