- Daily Mail investigation found only 108 out of 140 letters posted arrived on time
Royal Mail has been criticised for ‘destroying’ the postal system – as an investigation found nearly one in four letters didn’t arrive on time.
The nation’s postal service was fined £5.6 million by Ofcom this week for missing its first and second-class delivery targets ‘by a significant and unexplained margin’.
As families get ready to send Christmas cards across Britain, an investigation by the Mail found that only 108 out of 140 letters posted to addresses all over the country arrived on time.
One elderly woman, whose cancer-stricken son never got to read cards from family and friends before he died, said: ‘One of the missions of the service is connecting people in a very personal way and the history of letters is something very precious and that’s now being destroyed.’
Over two weeks, the Daily Mail sent 140 letters from seven cities and suburbs across England – 70 first-class and 70 second-class – including Taunton to Birmingham, Manchester to York, and Cambridge to Brighton. But only 71 per cent of first-class letters arrived on time, followed by 83 per cent of second-class post.
Under Ofcom’s rules, Royal Mail has to deliver 93 per cent of first-class mail within one working day and 98.5 per cent of second-class mail within three working days.
It was fined for missing these targets in 2022-23 when only 73.7 per cent of first-class mail was delivered on time and 90.7 per cent of second class.
The £5.6 million fine comes after Royal Mail avoided punishment during the Covid pandemic. In 2018-19, it was fined £1.5 million.
The postal service blamed the poor delivery times on a ‘uniquely challenging’ year when there was a long-running industrial dispute.
In the first week of the Mail investigation, only 69 per cent of letters sent with a first-class stamp – which cost £1.25 – were on time.
Letters sent with a second-class stamp, which cost 75p, fared slightly better as 86 per cent arrived on time – but still well below Ofcom’s target.
In the second week, a quarter of first-class letters were late, while a fifth of second-class letters took too long.
Brighton fared particularly badly, where some letters failed to turn up at all.
Brighton resident Christine Lewis, 71, received only two Royal Mail deliveries in six weeks this year after her son Simon suddenly died from cancer. In the first delivery was ‘a month’s worth of mail’, including lots of cards for Simon that had been sent before he died. He never got to read them.
‘When I opened it, it was even more upsetting,’ Dr Lewis said. ‘More than half of it were cards and letters to my son, which would have been lovely for him to read.
‘Instead, they had been stuck in the sorting office. There were two or three really personal letters about how he changed their life and thanking him.’
Her postman apologised and blamed staff shortages.
Dr Lewis, a retired academic, said she didn’t receive another delivery for three to four weeks. When her postman again delivered a ‘deluge of mail’, she received a slip informing her that a package was waiting at the sorting office.
But she was too late – the parcel had been returned to the central office where it might have been destroyed.
MP Caroline Lucas hit out at the ‘abysmal service standards’. She said: ‘What we are seeing is a result of systematic failings by senior management, pushing a profit-driven model over public service. It’s time for some accountability.’
Royal Mail said: ‘We offer our full sympathies to the customer in Brighton who experienced a poor service earlier in the year. We are committed to improving deliveries for all our customers.’