Royal Mail invests £15m in parcel hubs ahead of festive surge

Royal Mail is investing £15m extra in tackling this year’s festive season surge of mail volumes, as the rise of online shopping is expected to bring record numbers of packages. The UK postal service said it made a “very substantial” financial commitment to the traditional seasonal surge every year, but this year Internet-based retail is set to bring in a mailbag of around 2bn items in the run-up to Christmas.

Royal Mail is setting up nine dedicated package hubs around the country to sort a major part of the parcels that require delivery, and has shelled out for an additional 73,000 mail containers and one million trays for the transportation of extra mail.

It will also be taking on 18,000 temporary staff to support its permanent 130,000 staff, revealing last week that it has received 80,000 applications for the positions after a month-long recruitment campaign.

Mark Higson, managing director of operations and modernisation at Royal Mail, said investment was being made to increase capacity of the network, and with an eye on possible weather disruptions, also to improve flexibility.

“Christmas is the busiest time of year for Royal Mail and our customers,” he said. “On peak days we handle around 130m items – around double our normal average daily mailbag of 62m items.”

Royal Mail will open its new parcel hubs at its sites in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Swansea, Bristol, Peterborough, Manchester, Swindon, Nuneaton and Watford.

The hubs will separate a “significant proportion” of the parcel flow from the normal sorting network of 59 mail centres and 10 regional distribution centres. Seasonal workers are generally taken on from mid-November until January, peaking in December.

Meanwhile, the postal service is advising its customers to post their festive gifts as early as possible.

“As we do every year, we encourage people to post early and order presents early to help us spread the workload of handling around 2bn items in the run-up to Christmas,” said Higson.

UK consumer watchdog Consumer Focus welcomed the news that Royal Mail will be investing in its processing capacity ahead of the festive season.

Nigel Woods, the group’s postal expert, said: “People across the country experienced frustrating delays to their Christmas post last winter, so it is good to see Royal Mail taking steps to stop this happening again this year with additional investment and a dedicated packet network. Another spell of bad weather in December could really test Royal Mail’s ability to deliver our post on time.”

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