February 08, 2006

All Roads Lead To Doncaster

postwatch is the watchdog for the postal service in the UK, and last night two of their East Anglian team gave a presentation at the CHASE meeting.

It was actually a much more interesting talk than I was expecting. We got to hear a bit about how the Royal Mail operates; about what postwatch does; details of how the postal market is changing; and a look at some of the technology in use elsewhere in the world.

At the start of this year, the government opened up the postal service to competition, so anyone (once they've got a licence) can set up as a postal operator. It seems unlikely that there'll be many people taking on the Royal Mail in the "last mile" of delivering things to people's doors, but there seems to be lots of inefficiency and scope for improvement in the sorting of letters. You can then get the Royal Mail to deliver your sorted items for 11p per letter.

Royal Mail process 80 million items each day, and only 44% of that is sorted by machine! The rest is sorted by hand, most likely by someone in Doncaster, as all post is taken up there in lorries for sorting. So if I send something to my next-door neighbour, it will make a 230 mile round trip...

Other countries seem to be doing better with regard to innovation and technology in their postal services. In Germany, 85-90% of mail is sorted mechanically, and they have a network of (around 130 at present) Packstations (the linked site is in German, of course...) - secure, automated collection boxes put into stations and similar convenient locations where users can register to get parcels delivered. So there's no working out how to get to some Parcel Force depot that's only open when you're at work. There is a service called eBox starting to do something similar in the UK (one of the guys involved with was at the meeting) where they'll have secure lobbies like some banks do. They are (or will soon be) doing a trial in East Anglia.

Talking of East Anglia, or more specifically the Cambridge area, the Royal Mail are proposing some changes to the CB postcode area. Apparently, there isn't enough room in the postcodes for assorted outlying areas given the expected new developments, so there's a proposal to change an assortment of CB1 through CB5 postcodes to CB21 through CB25. Consultation begins on 14th Feb, at which point there'll be a letter sent out to anyone affected. However, there has already been a mailing out to some of the parish councils, and Paul Oldham has transcribed the letter sent to Milton parish council which has a list of the affected postcodes.

Posted by Adrian at February 8, 2006 11:16 AM | TrackBack

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Thanks for the update adrian - I decided to improve my public speaking abilities at Toastmaster.

Posted by: Geoff at February 8, 2006 08:10 PM

So does this mean you'll be giving a CHASE talk soon? ;-)

Posted by: Adrian at February 8, 2006 09:16 PM
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