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Frazer, you can apply for a new passport at any time, with no reason required. The downside is that they'll only "credit" you up to nine months for the unused time on your old passport. So if you applied for a new one (say) next month you'd waste 15 months that you'd paid for on your old one (two years left to run less 9 months credit).
I've heard about this "everybody apply for a new passport at once" thing as well - I'd be up for that if anyone could get some details (I'm in the happy situtaion of having a passport that expires next February, so I wouldn't even lose out by doing that).Tony Walton, 12 years ago.