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Model of a Modern Royal Mail

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Last week all the new walk-sequencing machines in our area broke down. This meant that only about a third of the letters arrived at our delivery office on Wednesday. So on Thursday we had two days’ post to deliver, and everyone’s mail was late.

Walk-sequencing machines sort the letters into the order that they are going to be delivered in. The old walk-sorting machines only organised the post into rounds: postal workers had to do the final sorting. Under the old system, all the post was in the delivery office by 7.15 and we were usually out on our rounds by 9.00. Under the new system, the last lorry arrives at 9.15 and sometimes we don’t get out until after 11.00. It’s quite normal for a postal worker to finish work at 3.30 these days, and for posties doing rural rounds still to be delivering letters as late as four in the afternoon. The machines also have a tendency to break down, as we’ve just discovered, so on some days no post is delivered at all. But they are central to the Royal Mail’s ‘modernisation’ programme.

There was a talk show about the Royal Mail on BBC Three Counties Radio the other day. People in Milton Keynes weren’t getting their post. Some people had been waiting for three weeks for it to arrive. ‘Obviously we have to modernise the business and that is what we are doing,’ explained Steve Smart, a local collection and delivery manager. ‘At the end of the day if we don’t modernise Royal Mail we’ll have problems down the line.’ In a nine-minute interview he used the word ‘modernise’ or ‘modernisation’ 15 times.

The Royal Mail have scrapped all the bikes in Milton Keynes and replaced them with vans. Vans are obviously much more modern than bikes. They are also more expensive. Not only do they cost several thousand pounds to buy, they cost several hundred pounds a year to tax and insure. As one postal worker said, ‘you could have bought a new bike for the cost of the insurance, which would have lasted ten years.’

Vans are also slower and less versatile than bikes. They are quicker along the road, but once on your round you have to get out and walk, pulling the post behind you on a trolley. It’s awkward. After a while it puts a strain on your back. And you can’t read the envelopes as you’re walking, which slows things down even more. Rounds that used to take three and a half hours to complete are now taking up to five. Whoever devised this method has obviously never delivered a letter in their life.

On a bike you can sometimes ride right to the front door and push the post through the letter box without getting off. You don’t get a stiff back. You never have trouble parking. Bikes cost nothing to run, give out no fumes, and will still be in use when all the vans are scrapped because petrol has become too expensive.

‘Modernising’ the Royal Mail means replacing a tried and tested method that’s been good for more than a hundred years with one that is more tiring, more polluting, slower and more expensive. Expect more chaos and delayed post as the Royal Mail’s modernisation programme is rolled out across the country.

Comments on “Model of a Modern Royal Mail”

  1. Geoff Roberts says:

    The same processes are under way here in Germany and probably all over the continent, all in the name of ‘modernisation’ ‘more efficiency’ and all theother buzz words of the neo-liberals. I was chatting to our postman the other day (the one that delivers most often, that is.) He starts his round at the bottom of the hill at seven and doesn’t finish his round until four or five pm. There are boxes along the way in which the letters for the next section are deposited. As I came up, his bike had just fallen over and the packets of letters (mostly sales flyers as far as I could see) had fallen into the snow. The bike has some sort of motor to help him get up the hill, but he told me that the rounds get bigger and bigger every year. Fewer letters of course these days, but the pressure on you post people is beyond reason. ‘My’ postman was at the end of his tether, and it was only two pm.

    • Roy Mayall says:

      What people don’t know is how about postal work is how intensely physical it is. In the Panorama programme last year they had a Royal Marine fitness instructor attempt to do a postal round, and he said it was unreasonable. If your postie is working from 7am till four or five pm, I’m surprised he isn’t dead. But you’re right about these buzz-words. They are all just euphemisms for naked exploitation.

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