Daily Mail

Royal Mail demands end of Saturday post

- By Calum Muirhead

ROYAL Mail has piled pressure on the Gov- ernment to scrap Saturday letter deliveries as it crashed to a loss of nearly £320m.

With the 507-year-old firm facing a crucial Christmas after last year’s festive season was thrown into chaos by strikes, it warned that change was ‘urgently’ needed so it could adapt to people’s delivery habits.

To avoid a repeat of last year, when mail piled up in sorting offices, it is offering £500 bonuses if staff hit delivery targets.

It has also drawn up plans to hire 16,000 seasonal workers and open five temporary sorting offices to avoid backlogs.

‘Quality is key for customer satisfacti­on and sustainabl­e growth, so we are pulling out all the stops to deliver Christmas for our customers,’ said Martin Seidenberg, the boss of Royal Mail’s parent company Internatio­nal Distributi­ons Services (IDS). It is under particular pressure to deliver after first- class stamps hit a record £1.25 last month, or £10 for a book of eight.

Seidenberg, who took charge in August, reiterated that Saturday letter deliveries had to be axed as the volume of letters posted continued to dwindle.

‘It’s not sustainabl­e to maintain a network built for 20bn letters when we’re only delivering seven billion. Regulation has to move with the times,’ he said.

The comments came as IDS revealed losses at Royal Mail jumped to £319m in the six months to September 24 – up from £219m in the same period last year – as sales fell 2.9pc to £3.5bn. The losses at Royal Mail wiped out profits of £150m at its internatio­nal sister business GLS, leaving IDS with an overall loss of £169m – almost treble the £57m loss in the same period last year. Shares fell 3.84pc or 9.4p to 235.3p. Seidenberg called on the Government and the regulator Ofcom to help it adapt to the declining use of letters alongside a boom in parcel deliveries and the rise of rival delivery groups such as Amazon and Evri.

‘We need to move on,’ Seidenberg said, adding that other countries had already reformed their postal services, and the UK was ‘being left behind’.

His comments came as Royal Mail continues to push for an overhaul of its Universal Service Obligation, the law that requires it to deliver letters six days a week, arguing that changing customer habits meant five days would be sufficient. There have been growing complaints that the firm is falling behind on delivery targets, particular­ly for first-class post.

Ofcom fined it £5.6m this week for failing to meet its targets, which require Royal Mail to deliver 93pc of first-class mail within one working day and 98.5pc of second-class mail within three working days. Last year, it delivered 73.7pc of first- class mail and 90.7pc of second-class mail on time.

The postal service is required to complete 99.9pc of delivery routes for each day on which a delivery is required, but last year it only managed 89.35pc.

Royal Mail also faces a £600m legal claim from rival Whistl which says it abused its dominant market position to squeeze out competitor­s. It comes as the Post Office ended its 360-year exclusive partnershi­p with Royal Mail this month by agreeing to act for rival carriers DPD and Evri.

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