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Last Updated: Friday, 7 May, 2004, 04:49 GMT 05:49 UK
First class promises; second class post
posting a letter
We posted 100 first class letters. Just 56 arrived the next working day
Is the postal service failing to deliver on its promises?

After a deluge of e-mails complaining about the post, we devoted much of this morning's programme to a special investigation of the state of the Royal Mail.

We heard from the BBC's reporters and correspondents around the country, who've been conducting a snapshot test of the Royal Mail.

Between them, they posted 100 first class letters on Wednesday afternoon.

Only 56 of them had arrived by late yesterday afternoon - well short of the Royal Mail's own targets.

  • In a special programme this morning, Breakfast asked: is the Royal Mail failing to deliver?

  • We put the results of our spot-check to the Chief Executive of the Royal Mail, Adam Crozier.

    Royal Mail chief Adam Crozier, live on Breakfast
    Crozier: taking personal charge

    "We recognise that you have highlighted some problem areas, " he told us.

    "As group Chief Executive, I will step in to run the letters business.

    "Until now, I have not personally run the letters business, but I think it's important that I do - I think it's important that everyone takes responsibility for the letters business, from the top to the bottom."

    Mr Crozier revealed he'd called a meeting of operations directors in London, to sort out problems with deliveries.

    "We are focused on making sure that the quality of service improves and we hope to begin to see improvements within the next two to three months."

  • We talked to Billy Hayes, leader of the Union of Communications Workers

    He told us post workers were struggling to cope with an increasing number of addresses - up from 21 million to 27 million - while 10% of the workforce had been cut.

  • And - again - we had hundreds of e-mails

    For the price of a First Class stamp - 28p - The Royal Mail aims to deliver letters the next working day, wherever they're posted in the UK.

    In reality, just over 92% of first class letters arrived on time last year. During last Autumn's wildcat strikes, the figure dropped to about 80%

    It's thought that around 14 million letters go missing each year.

    After conducting its own survey, the consumer organisation Postwatch reckons that much of the missing mail has been wrongly-delivered, rather than stolen or destroyed.

    Most of us deliver the letter to the right address - but we might take some time to do it.

    But a small minority of us put mis-delivered letters straight into the bin.

  • We asked BBC correspondents and producers to send 100 First Class letters across the country.
    Breakfast's Julia Botfield writes her five letters
    Four out of five of Julia's letters arrived in Cardiff

    We divided our testers into pairs and gave each person five letters to send to the other. All our letters were posted by 3pm on Wednesday (May 5).

    This shows how many had reached their destination by late yesterday afternoon (Thursday) giving us a snapshot of the state of the Royal Mail's services:

  • Glasgow to Plymouth: 3
  • Plymouth to Glasgow: 5
  • Cardiff to London: 0
  • London to Cardiff: 4
  • Belfast to Manchester: 0
  • Manchester to Belfast: 0
  • County Durham to Warwickshire: 5
  • Warwickshire to County Durham: 1
  • London to Buckinghamshire: 5
  • Buckinghamshire to London: 4
  • Cambridge to Southampton: 5
  • Southampton to Cambridge: 3
  • Tunbridge Wells to Orkney: 5
  • Orkney to Tunbridge Wells: 0
  • Jersey to Dumfries: 0
  • Dumfries to Jersey: 0
  • Stoke to Bristol: 1
  • Bristol to Stoke: 5
  • Cheltenham to Carlisle: 5
  • Carlisle to Cheltenham: 5
  • A total of 56 out of 100 first class letters arrived by the next working day.

    Because of an error in editing, the figures for senders and recipients were originally transposed (although the totals remain the same) They have now been corrected. Our apologies to all involved.

    We want to hear your experiences - good or bad - of the postal service. Use this form to e-mail the Breakfast team with your views

    Your E-mail address
    Where you live

    Disclaimer: The BBC may edit your comments and cannot guarantee that all e-mails will be published.

    Testing the mail
    Breakfast's Julia Botfield presides over our 100 letter test

    Is our snapshot accurate?
    We spoke to two BBC Correspondents: John Morrison in Edinburgh and Alex Bushill in Plymouth

    Royal Mail test results
    The full league table of results - and reactions from Julia's new penfriend in Cardiff, Wyre Davies

    BBC Breakfast


    Your Comments
    23 Dec 03  |  Breakfast

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