New rules protect access to post boxes in rural areas

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OFCOM is introducing new safeguards for postal services in rural communities, which have been welcomed by the Royal Mail.

The proposals from the post regulator means access to the Royal Mail’s 115,500 post boxes will be protected under a requirement that 98 per cent of all households should be no further than half a mile from a post box.

Under current arrangements, the existing measures cover less than half of the country’s postcode areas and Royal Mail accept that ruling is not fit for purpose.

Market research suggests that most mail users are happy with the current numbers of post boxes.

The new requirement would provide further protection for postal services to those in rural communities.

Ofcom recently confirmed that the scope of the Universal Service which guarantees the same service standards for the provision of postal services in rural and urban areas would remain unchanged. Royal Mail is legally obliged to deliver to every address and daily deliveries to rural areas cannot be reduced in the event of the sale of Royal Mail. This obligation is defined in law and cannot be changed unless approved by both Houses of Parliament.

Public access to the Post Office branch network must also remain unchanged, with 93.1 per cent of the population with a mile of a branch and 99.7 per cent with three miles.

Stephen Agar, the managing director for consumer and network access at Royal Mail said: “Nine out of ten customers consider Royal Mail a core part of the community – particularly in rural areas, where we are part of the lifeblood of day to day communication. Easy access to post boxes is an important part of this. The number of post boxes in the UK – in both rural and urban areas – has remained stable for the past decade.

“We are proud that, with our extensive network of over 115,000 post boxes, the UK has the highest level of post box provision per square kilometre of any Western European nation. Amongst the 19 countries measured by the Universal Postal Union, only Japan has a higher geographic density of post boxes.”

Royal Mail has to comply with the Universal Service Order, which includes a stipulation that 99.9 per cent of delivery routes are completed each day and that 93 per cent of first class mail reaches its destination the next day, with 98.5 per cent of second class mail delivered within three working days.