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Thursday, 31 January, 2002, 16:42 GMT
Mixed reaction to postal plans
Worker with exhaust in Chester workshop
Items like exhaust pipes are too awkward for Consignia
Consignia, the company running Royal Mail, may have to open up its business to competition.

Kevin Bocquet reports from the Chester area, where its mix of urban and rural populations is divided about a possible end to the Royal Mail monopoly.

While businesses in the Chester area - a typical mix of urban sprawl surrounded by countryside - believe they could have a lot to gain from the post regulator's proposals, smaller rural communities believe they could lose out.


They would like them in small boxes and unfortunately our exhaust systems will not go into boxes

Steve Evans
Chester businessman
Chester Exhaust Supplies, on the outskirts of the city, supplies exhaust systems for cars to every part of the UK, largely by mail order.

But the company told the BBC it cannot always rely on Consignia because the packages it sends out are simply too awkward.

It claims Consignia is not sufficiently responsive to its individual needs.

Steve Evans, of Chester Exhaust Supplies, said Consignia had told the business that packed exhausts will not go through its automated system.

"They would like them in small boxes and unfortunately our exhaust systems will not go into boxes because of the irregular length that they are and sizes," he said.

Wary locals

The company instead relies largely on an independent delivery firm - one of about 4,000 firms now competing directly with the Royal Mail Postal Service.

Other firms told the BBC a similar story.

One that distributes children's push chairs said it was so disillusioned with Consignia it had withdrawn its business.

But in other areas around Chester, there are people who have told the BBC that they are scared about what they believe could amount to the total deregulation of the whole way the Royal Mail operates.

These people are anxious that they could be left without any postal service at all.


We have several hundreds of pensioners here and families that require family allowances, pensions, cash

Lesley Humphreys
Postal worker
In the village of Kinnerton, about six miles from Chester, the local post office is seen as a life line.

People there are already concerned about the existence of rural post offices.

They are afraid that if Consignia finds itself competing in the more lucrative urban areas, villages like Kinnerton might end up with little or no service of any kind.

Lesley Humphreys, of Kinnerton Post Office, said: "We have several hundreds of pensioners here and families that require family allowances, pensions, cash.

"We also have lots of sort of local rural businesses which actually do supply a service from us.

"It is vital for them, for a quick turn over, for a special delivery, this sort of thing."

See also:

31 Jan 02 | Business
Competition shake-up for post
31 Jan 02 | Business
Q&A: The Post Office Crisis
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