|Type||State-Owned Limited company|
|Headquarters||London, England, UK|
|Key people||Donald Brydon, Chairman
Adam Crozier, CEO
|Subsidiaries||Post Office Ltd.
General Logistics Systems
Royal Mail is the national postal service of the United Kingdom. Royal Mail Holdings plc owns Royal Mail Group Limited, which in turn operates the brands Royal Mail (UK letters), Parcelforce Worldwide (UK parcels) and General Logistics Systems. Post Office Ltd., which provides counter services, is a wholly owned subsidiary.
Royal Mail Holdings is a public limited company in which the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform owns 50,004 ordinary shares plus 1 special share, and the Treasury Solicitor holds 1 ordinary share.
Historically, the General Post Office was a government department which included the Royal Mail delivery business, represented in government by the Postmaster General, a Cabinet-level post. It became a statutory corporation in 1969. Most of the duties were passed to Consignia plc in November 2001, and the old Post Office was dissolved in 2007. Consignia changed to Consignia Holdings plc, then Royal Mail Holdings plc, the current name.
Royal Mail was not privatised in the 1980s and 1990s, but remains a limited company owned by the UK government. A bill that arrived in the House of Commons around 4 June 2009 would, if passed, partly privatise the company. However the bill was postponed due to the current recession.
Royal Mail is responsible for universal mail collection and delivery in the UK. Letters are deposited in a pillar or wall box, taken to a post office, or collected in bulk from businesses. Deliveries are made at least once every day except Sundays and Bank Holidays at uniform charges for all destinations within the UK. First Class deliveries are generally made the next business day throughout the UK.
Royal Mail delivered 84 million items every working day and had a network of 14,376 post offices with a revenue of £9.056 billion, and profits before tax were £312 million in 2006. Since that time, profits have dropped year on year – £233 million in 2006-7 falling to a £10 million trading deficit in 2007. In 2008, the BBC reported that Royal Mail's trading position had worsened to an annual loss of £279 million/yr in financial 2007. For the financial year 2008-9 Royal Mail had an operating profit of £321m, with all four group businesses in a full year profit for the first time in two decades.
In Wales, the service carries the Welsh name Post Brenhinol, as well as the English name. Both names are normally used on vans, postboxes etc. It is also compulsory for all Post Offices in Wales to have the name Swyddfa'r Post on display outside. In parts of the highlands and islands of Scotland, post office branches also display the name Oifis a' Phuist, which means post office in Scots Gaelic.
The Royal Mail traces its history back to 1516, when Henry VIII established a "Master of the Posts", a post which eventually evolved into the office of the Postmaster General. The Royal Mail service was first made available to the public by Charles I on 31 July, 1635, with postage being paid by the recipient, and the General Post Office (GPO) was officially established by Charles II in 1660.
Between 1719 and 1763, Ralph Allen, Postmaster at Bath, signed a series of contracts with the post office to develop and expand Britain's postal network. He organised mail coaches which were provided by both Wilson & Company of London and Williams & Company of Bath. The early Royal Mail Coaches were similar to ordinary family coaches but with Post Office livery.
In December 1839 the first substantial reform started when postage rates were revised by the short-lived Uniform Fourpenny Post. Greater changes took place when the Uniform Penny Post was introduced on 10 January, 1840 whereby a single rate for delivery anywhere in Great Britain and Ireland was pre-paid by the sender. A few months later, to certify that postage had been paid on a letter, the sender could affix the first adhesive postage stamp, the Penny Black that was available for use from May 6 of the same year. Other innovations were the introduction of pre-paid William Mulready designed postal stationery letter sheets and envelopes.
As the United Kingdom was the first country to issue prepaid postage stamps, British stamps are the only stamps that do not bear the name of the country of issue on them.
By the late 19th century, there were between six and twelve mail deliveries per day in London, permitting correspondents to exchange multiple letters within a single day.
Traditionally UK post boxes carry the Latin initials of the reigning monarch at the time of their installation: in this case VR for Victoria Regina. Pillar boxes and other RMG Street Furniture are maintained by Romec Ltd.
In 1969 the GPO was changed from a government department to a public corporation, and the position of Postmaster General was abolished.
In 2000, The Post Office renamed itself ‘Consignia’. However, the change proved to be highly unpopular with both the public and even the organisation's own employees, with the Communication Workers' Union boycotting the name. In 2002, the organisation adopted the name of the letters delivery business, becoming "Royal Mail Group plc" with the following operating divisions:
Contrary to urban myth, Royal Mail does not own the trademark on the colour red, but a specific shade of the colour red: "Royal Mail, the Royal Mail Cruciform, the colour red (as part of the Royal Mail logotype) and SmartStamp are all registered trademarks of Royal Mail Group plc."
In 2001 the government set up a postal regulator, Postcomm, and offered licences to private companies to deliver mail. In 2001, the Consumer Council for Postal Services, more commonly known as Postwatch, was created for consumers to express any concerns they may have with the postal service in the UK.
From 1 January, 2006, the Royal Mail lost its 350-year monopoly and the UK postal market became fully open to competition.
The General Post Office introduced telegraph services in 1870 and telephone services in 1912. It took over nearly all of the UK's municipal telephone companies (the sole exception being Kingston Communications in Hull) and was responsible for the resultant telephone network until British Telecommunications was demerged by the British Telecommunications Act 1981. BT was later privatised.
The National Girobank was introduced in 1968 and sold to Alliance & Leicester in 1990. The government run National Savings and Investments (founded in 1861 as the Post Office Savings Bank) is also operated through Post Office branches.
Historically, many government benefits and state retirement pensions were paid in cash through the post office network. However, in recent years, an increasing proportion of benefit and pension payments have been made directly by bank transfer, leading to a loss of revenue for Post Office branches and many closures.
The Royal Mail is regulated by Postcomm, while consumer interests are represented by Postwatch. The relationship between the two has not always been good and in 2005 Postwatch took Postcomm to Judicial Review over its decision regarding rebates to late-paying customers.
The Government department responsible for the Royal Mail is the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, however the public financial interest is managed by the Shareholder executive.
Although now a private company, the Royal Mail enjoys special protection under Government legislation which severely limits consumer rights. Under the Postal Services Act 2000, the Royal Mail is under no contractual obligation to deliver most mail, including special delivery items. In addition, no court action can be taken against the Royal Mail more than 12 months after an item is posted.
Royal Mail has, in some quarters, a poor reputation for losing mail despite more than 99.93% of mail arriving safely and in 2006 was fined £11.7 million due to the amount of mail lost, stolen or damaged. According to Home Office figures from 2002 up to a million letters a week were lost or delivered to the wrong address.
Royal Mail has been at the centre of a number of industrial disputes during its history - notably the national wildcat strikes in 2003 and a seven-week strike in 1971. By Autumn 2007, disputes began to escalate into industrial action. In mid October unions and management agreed a resolution to the dispute.
In December 2008, workers at Mail Centres affected by proposals to rationalise the number of Mail Centres (particularly in North West England) again voted for strike action on Friday 19 December, potentially affecting Christmas deliveries. The action was postponed less than 24 hours before staff were due to walk out.
Localised strikes have taken place across the UK from June 2009 and these have grown in frequency throughout the summer. There is currently a ballot on national industrial action, over Royal Mail's failure to reach a national agreement covering protection of jobs, pay, terms and conditions and the cessation of managerial executive action. The result will be known by 9 October 2009 .
Royal Mail is famous for its custom load carrying bicycles (rack and basket built into the frame), made by Pashley Cycles for the past 10+ years. Since 2000, their old bikes have been shipped to Africa by Re~Cycle (10,000 as of 2008) .
In addition to running a large number of road vehicles, Royal Mail uses trains, a ship and some aircraft, with an air hub at East Midlands Airport.
The following aircraft are included in the dedicated fleet:
British Airways aircraft are also used for airmail deliveries and bear a small Royal Mail logo towards the rear of the fuselage.
The RMS St Helena is a cargo and passenger ship that serves the British overseas territory of Saint Helena. It sails between Cape Town and Saint Helena, occasionally visiting the dependencies of Ascension Island and Tristan da Cunha. It also visits the Isle of Portland, England twice per year. It is one of the last remaining ocean-going ships to carry the designation Royal Mail Ship.
The Royal Mail runs, alongside its stamped mail services, another sector of post called business mail. The large majority of Royal Mail's business mail service is for PPI or franked mail, where the sender prints their own 'stamp'. For PPI mail this involves either a simple rubber stamp and an ink pad, or a printed label. For franked mail, a dedicated franking machine is used.
Bulk business mail attracts reduced prices if the sender prints an RM4SCC barcode, or prints the address in a specified position on the envelope using a font readable by optical character recognition (OCR) equipment. There are no facilities to read addresses in these formats from general mail.
In 2009, BBC show Top Gear presenters, James May and Richard Hammond in a Porsche Panamera raced aganist the Royal Mail to deliver a letter. The raced started in the Isles of Scilly and finished in the Orkney Islands. The letter reached the mainland first, but the car overtook the letter while it was in the sorting office in Truro. The letter did finally overtake the car shortly after leaving East Midlands airport. The letter opened up a lead of 115 miles when it reached RAF Kinloss. However after going on a lorry to Inverness Sorting Office, the car took the lead again. But the letter took the lead while on a plane to the Orkneys. The letter won the race by less than 10 minutes.