The changing state of our UK postal system

The postal system has been going through significant changes over the last few years, with more changes still set to come.

For instance, since its start in 2004, access mail (mail that it collected and distributed by a competitor, but is passed on to Royal Mail for final processing and despatch to local delivery offices) has grown rapidly. In 2005 there were 786 million items mailed via access routes – by 2011 this had grown to 7.24 billion items. And it looks like this figure is still set to rise.

Are these mail items getting to customers on time though? Well, in the latest Quality of Service performances figures published by Royal Mail, it seems that 92.2% of First Class mail is delivered next day, 98.6% of Second Class mail is delivered within three working days, 96.3% of retail parcels are delivered within three working days and 94.2% of access mail is delivered the first working day after receipt by Royal Mail. With these figures based on the period 25 June 2012 to 23 September 2012.

There are also plans to simplify the parcel services from April 2013. There are currently up to 15 different weight bands for parcels – the plans are to decrease this to just 7. This should make it much easier to understand and choose the most appropriate service. The changes also include the introduction of two broad parcel categories – small parcels and medium parcels. This will bring Royal Mail’s categorisation in line with many other postal operators within Europe.

New figures now reveal that UK consumers receive more parcels than anyone else. The Ofcom International Communications Market Report 2012 showed that 34% of UK consumers claimed to have received at least one large parcel (an item that does not fit through the letterbox) within the past month – a figure that is higher than any other country that was involved in the survey.

Despite the increasing costs of postage with Royal Mail, the Ofcom report also showed that when it comes to standard-sized letters, the UK is among the cheapest in Europe. For small letters, however, the UK and Japan are the most expensive countries.

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