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Last Updated: Saturday, 10 May, 2003, 09:23 GMT 10:23 UK
Black letter day for mail train
Old picture of men sorting mail

A railway era has come to an end with the final journey of a travelling post office operating from Scotland.

The last such train, on which Royal Mail workers process first-class mail, pulled out of Wishaw, near Glasgow, on Friday night, bound for Cardiff.

The service has been stopped as a result of the Royal Mail's efficiency drive aimed at cutting its losses of more than 1m a day.

In future, the post will be carried on the road and air network.

The Glasgow-Cardiff travelling post office has consistently failed to reach targets which dictate that no more than 10 trains out of 40 should arrive late.

The Royal Mail stressed this was "due to the poor performance of the trains and the financial advantage to the business".

The decision did not reflect on the "high quality" of work by the staff, who may be redeployed within the business, or their loyalty.

Old picture of outside of TPO
The TPO's have plied the network for 165 years

The first journey by a travelling post office took place in 1838 between Euston station in London and Denbigh Hall.

Fourteen years later, there were 39 railway clerks and the serve stretched between Perth, Newcastle and Exeter.

In 1936, the GPO Film Unit made the classic "Night Mail" documentary showing the nightly run between London and Scotland. It featured a verse by the poet, W.H. Auden.

When a two-tier postal system was introduced in 1968, it was decided to sort only first-class mail on the travelling post offices.

At their peak, 130 travelling post offices criss-crossed Britain's rail network every night.

In 2003, that figure is down to just 15 and will fall further with the end of the Glasgow-Cardiff route.

BBC Scotland's Gillian Marles
"Royal Mail has had to rethink every part of its business"

Royal Mail 'losing 2m a week'
01 May 03  |  Business

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