Royal Mail Tests Ending Second Deliveries

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Twice-a-day mail deliveries in the United Kingdom may be on the way out as Royal Mail will test one daily delivery in May, the postal service said yesterday.

Royal Mail, a subsidiary of state-run postal giant Consignia, said the pilot program will take place in 14 areas of the country covering about 100,000 customers. Deliveries will be made around noon six days a week. Currently, a 10 a.m. delivery is followed by a second in the afternoon.

If the test program succeeds, the rest of the country will switch to the new schedule by the fall.

Royal Mail said most residential customers will not notice a difference since many more people are at work during the day than in the past. The postal service also said it would work with small businesses to determine how the pilot program affects them.

"Our delivery patterns have not been changed for many years, and we believe there is scope to increase efficiency and improve reliability," a Royal Mail spokesman said. "Change is a necessity and the key to safeguarding the future of an affordable next-day delivery service for everyone in the country."

Other changes being considered include evening deliveries and services for customers who want to pick up the mail.

Royal Mail said the delivery change is part of a massive shakeup aimed at saving 1.2 billion pounds (approximately $1.7 billion) a year. It is expected to bring job losses among postal workers. Meanwhile, the Communications Workers Union is calling for a strike of Royal Mail over a pay dispute. The ballot will be returned in March, and a strike looks likely, though both sides are in talks with conciliation service ACSA.

Royal Mail also said the new system was in response to competition as the postal delivery market opens up. As a result of a ruling by the Postal Services Commission, or Postcomm, direct marketers in the UK may have their bulk mail delivered by a postal competitor by April.

The commission said 4,000-count bulk business mailings, which incorporate almost half the letters sent in Britain, could be handled by rival operators by April and that all deliveries would be open to competition within four years.

Postcomm has given Consignia and other organizations affected by the proposals until March 15 to comment. The regulator may revise its proposals based on these comments, but Consignia is required to implement the final reform package.

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