Page last updated at 15:31 GMT, Tuesday, 30 September 2008 16:31 UK

Long queues 'plague post offices'

Queue outside a London post office
Waiting times in seven busy post offices can be around 18 minutes

People in London are sometimes forced to wait up to 28 minutes before they are served at post offices, a postal services watchdog has said.

Postwatch said the average waiting time in queues at post offices in the city was usually up to 15 minutes.

Last year 160 branches were shut across London, which left the remaining 700 branches to deal with the extra load, leading to queues, Postwatch said.

A Post Office spokesman said they tried to serve "as quickly as possible".

'Unacceptable' wait

The watchdog studied seven of the busiest crown branches (directly-managed by the company) and found that some waiting times ranged from 11 to 18 minutes.

They were longest in Camden High Street, north London, and High Street, Croydon, south London, where people had to wait for 17 minutes and 48 seconds before being served.

Average waiting time in minutes
Camden High Street - 17.48
High Street, Croydon - 17.48
Walthamstow - 16.12
Shepherds Bush - 14.12
Wood Green - 12.12
North Finchley - 11.12
Finsbury Park - 5.24

Roger Darlington, chairman of Postwatch's Greater London group, said: "Long queuing times have been a problem at some of London's post offices for years, and with so many sub-post offices closing this year, we were naturally concerned about how certain offices would cope with an increase in customers.

"We have visited those seven offices on five occasions each and what we found is that in most cases the waiting time is longer, 15, 20 and even 25 minutes which is wholly unacceptable."

Postwatch added that it received action plans from the Post Office which stated their action plan for crown branches to increase serving capacity.

But the plans' effectiveness were "disappointing", the watchdog said.

The watchdog said post offices should have increased staffing levels and more counters to deal with customers during peak hours.

The Post Office spokesman said: "We continuously review our service as we want to ensure we are doing all we can to serve our customers as quickly as possible."

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