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Saturday, 16 February, 2002, 17:35 GMT
Picture postcard plan for mail services
Posting a letter at a post box
Picture postcards could boost rural mail services
Landowners have launched a "post a picture postcard" campaign in an attempt to shore up the mail service for rural areas ahead of possible privatisation plans.

The Country Land and Business Association in Wales has brought in the initiative amid fears that the postal services in the countryside could be jeopardised by plans to privatise postal services.

Mail sacks
There are plans to have private operators by 2006

It is also calling for a pledge that firms bidding to provide mail services will be obliged to help maintain rural sub-post offices.

The postcard campaign comes after the postal regulator, Postcomm, last month warned the Royal Mail's monopoly over letter deliveries could be ended within four years,

The postcards are being sent to Postcomm calling for government assurances that daily doorstep deliveries will be safeguarded with no cost penalty in rural areas.

Consignia, the company that runs Royal Mail, has warned that it would face "death by a thousand cuts" under the plan.

It has revealed that it is already losing 1m a day on letter delivery - before losing business to any competition.

Private operators

Politicians and trade unions say the plan could deliver yet another blow to the countryside, with rival postal carriers likely to focus on lucrative metropolitan markets while ignoring rural areas.

Postcomm is proposing that from April, private operators should be allowed to collect or deliver mail from companies sending out more than 4,000 items at a time.

The market will then be opened up in stages so that by April 2006 there will be no restrictions, with competition for household deliveries.

According to Postcomm, traditional mail markets are changing because of new technologies such as e-mail.

"Postcomm thinks that if Consignia is to thrive, it must embrace these developments and look for ways of providing with more choice and better value for money."

Nearly nine out of 10 letters are sent by companies or government agencies, says Postcomm, and it is this part of the business that it wants to liberalise first.

See also:

28 Jun 01 | Wales
Postboxes stolen for US market
31 Jan 02 | Business
Q&A: The Post Office crisis
31 Jan 02 | Business
Competition shake-up for post
21 Jan 02 | Business
Consignia names new chairman
12 Dec 01 | Business
Consignia backpedals on job cuts
12 Dec 01 | Business
Consignia clashes with the unions
14 Dec 01 | Business
Post strike threat withdrawn
26 Nov 01 | Business
UK post operator loses 1.5m a day
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