Royal Mail extends collection hours, but IT goes down on peak day

Royal Mail is extending opening hours at nearly 1,400 of its delivery offices from today until Christmas, to make it easier for people to collect online purchases. The company said its busiest offices would now be open from 6.30am in the morning until 7.30pm on weekdays, and from 6.30am to 5.30pm on Saturdays.

About 600 of its offices will also open until 8pm on Wednesday evenings.

Royal Mail was expecting today to be its busiest day of the year, with 130m mailpieces being handled, more than double the normal daily mailbag of 59m items.

The UK postal service said it was extending its opening hours to help those who cannot be at home when online orders are delivered first time, because a signature is required or an item is too big for the letterbox.

Customers not at home during the initial delivery receive a card detailing the extended opening hours for delivery offices. Package recipients can also ask items to be redelivered to an alternative address, while around 10,000 post office branches are also available as collection facilities.

Nick Landan, Royal Mail’s managing director of fulfilment and packets, said: “Royal Mail and Post Office Ltd have an unrivalled collection network approaching 11,400 offices. This scale and reach, serving communities across the UK, means that people who are not at home to receive deliveries of presents they have bought online can collect the items when it is convenient for them.”

IT problems

Meanwhile, on one of its busiest days of the year the UK’s post office network was hit by major IT problems today, paralysing the retail operations for two 30-minute periods.

It is thought by some that the unusual demand for computer systems on the busy day could have overloaded the system.

The Post Office network apologised to customers, stating that service was back to normal at the 11,800 branches across the country, but analysts pointed to similar failures in July, when problems meant 3.3m customers were denied access to Post Office accounts.

Andy Burrows, head of post offices and essential community services at national consumer watchdog Consumer Focus said: “We are extremely concerned that this is the second nationwide computer failure in post offices in less than six months.

“This will have caused major disruption for consumers at the busiest time of the year for the Post Office. People rely upon the Post Office not just for mail services, but also to access cash and much-needed pensions and benefits,” said Burrows, adding that Consumer Focus would be taking up its concerns with Post Office Ltd as a priority.

Today’s problems continued a run of computer difficulties experienced by Royal Mail Group in recent weeks, after its online postage services were overcharging customers last week, and at the end of November the PriceFinder service went down.

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