|Type||State-owned public limited company|
London, United Kingdom100 Victoria Embankment, London, EC4Y 0HQ
|Area served||United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland / Worldwide|
|Key people||Donald Brydon, Chairman
Moya Greene, CEO
|Services||Letter post, parcel service, EMS, delivery, freight forwarding, third-party logistics|
|Subsidiaries||General Logistics Systems B.V.|
Royal Mail is the government-owned postal service in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Royal Mail Holdings plc owns Royal Mail Group Limited, which in turn operates the brands Royal Mail (letters) and Parcelforce Worldwide (parcels). Post Office Ltd. (counters) and General Logistics Systems, an international logistics company, are wholly owned subsidiaries.
Royal Mail Holdings is a public limited company in which the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills 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 Her Majesty's Government by the Postmaster General, a Cabinet-level post. It became a statutory corporation known as the Post Office in 1969. Most of the duties were passed to Consignia plc, a public limited company wholly owned by Her Majesty's Government, in November 2001 and the dormant Post Office Corporation 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 or 1990s, and currently remains a state-owned company. However the Postal Services Act 2011 enables the government to privatise up to 90% of Royal Mail, with 10% being held by Royal Mail employees. The first sale of shares is expected in late 2013 or early 2014. The Act makes provision for Post Office Ltd. to continue to be owned by the Crown or a mutual ownership structure.
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 British destinations. First Class deliveries are generally made the next business day throughout the nation.
In 2006, 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. 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. Post Offices in Gaelic-speaking areas of Scotland, such as the Hebrides and parts of the Highlands, also display the name Oifis a' Phuist ("Post Office").
The Royal Mail can trace 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.
Upon his accession to the throne of England at the Union of the Crowns in 1603, James VI and I moved his court to London. One of his first acts from London was to establish the royal postal service between London and Edinburgh, in an attempt to retain control over the Scottish Privy Council.
In the 1640s Parliament removed the monopoly from Witherings and during the Civil War and First Commonwealth the parliamentary postal service was run at great profit for himself by Edmund Prideaux (a prominent parliamentarian and lawyer who rose to be attorney-general). To keep his monopoly in those troubled times Prideaux improved efficiency and used both legal impediments and illegal methods.
In 1653 Parliament set aside all previous grants for postal services, and contracts were let for the inland and foreign mails to John Manley. Manley was given a monopoly on the postal service, which was effectively enforced by Protector Oliver Cromwell's government, and thanks to the improvements necessitated by the war Manley ran a much improved Post Office service. In July 1655 the Post Office was put under the direct government control of John Thurloe, a Secretary of State, and best known to history as Cromwell's spymaster general. Previous English governments had tried to prevent conspirators communicating, Thurloe preferred to deliver their post having surreptitiously read it. As the Protectorate claimed to govern all of Great Britain and Ireland under one unified government, on 9 June 1657 the Second Protectorate Parliament (which included Scottish and Irish MPs) passed the "Act for settling the Postage in England, Scotland and Ireland" that created one monopoly Post Office for the whole territory of the Commonwealth.
At the restoration of the monarchy, in 1660, all the ordinances and acts passed by parliaments during the Civil War and the Interregnum passed into oblivion, so 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.
Uniform penny postage 
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 6 May the same year. Other innovations were the introduction of pre-paid William Mulready designed postal stationery letter sheets and envelopes.
As Britain 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.
Pillar boxes 
Traditionally British post boxes carried the Latin initials of the reigning monarch at the time of their installation: in this case VR for Victoria Regina or in the case of a male regent, e.g., GR for George Rex. This is now only applicable in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Such branding is not used in Scotland due to dispute over the current monarch's title. Some Scottish nationalists argue that Queen Elizabeth II should have simply been Queen Elizabeth as there had been no previous Queen Elizabeth of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, only of the 'extinct' after 1707 Kingdom of England (and Wales). That dispute included vandalism and attacks on pillar and post boxes introduced in Scotland that displayed EIIR. To avoid the dispute, pillar boxes in Scotland are either marked 'Post Office' or use the Scots Crown. Similarly, rather than the St Edward's Crown with the EIIR Cipher used elsewhere, in Scotland Royal Mail vans, until recently, have displayed the Scots Crown but without the Royal Cipher being displayed. During 2012 the Post Office in Scotland has started to introduced post-vans which bear the St Edwards Crown and Royal Cipher of EIIR on the front doors contrary to the 1950s decision on how to resolve the dispute over the monarch's title in Scotland. These vans have been seen in at least Broughty Ferry in Angus and St Andrews in Fife. Pillar boxes and other Royal Mail Group street furniture are maintained by Romec Ltd, a company part owned by Royal Mail Group.
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."
From 1960 
Under the Post Office Act 1969 the General Post Office was changed from a government department to a statutory corporation, known simply as the Post Office. The office of Postmaster General was abolished and replaced with the positions of Chairman and Chief Executive in the new company.
During the 1980s both British Telecom and Girobank were split off from the Post Office and sold, however the postal services section remained in public ownership as privatisation of this was deemed to be too unpopular. However in the 1990s President of the Board of Trade Michael Heseltine began investigating a possible sale and eventually a Green Paper on Postal Reform was published in May 1994, outlining various options for privatisation. The ideas though, proved controversial and were dropped from the 1994 Queen's Speech after a number of Conservative MPs warned Heseltine they would not vote for the legislation.
After a change of government in 1997, the Labour administration decided to keep the Post Office state-owned but with more commercial freedom. This led to the Postal Services Act 2000, where the Post Office became a public limited company renamed Consignia plc. 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:
- Royal Mail, delivering letters
- Parcelforce, delivering parcels
- Post Office Limited, managing the nationwide network of post office branches as retail outlets.
As part of the 2000 Act the government set up a postal regulator, the Postal Services Commission, known as Postcomm, which offered licences to private companies to deliver mail. In 2001, the Consumer Council for Postal Services, known as Postwatch, was created for consumers to express any concerns they may have with the postal service in Britain.
From 1 January 2006, the Royal Mail lost its 350-year monopoly and the British postal market became fully open to competition.
On 1 October 2008, Postwatch was merged into the new consumer watchdog, Consumer Focus.
In 2008, due to a continuing fall in mail volumes the government commissioned an independent review of the postal services sector by Richard Hooper CBE, the former deputy chairman of Ofcom. The recommendations in the Hooper Review led to Business Secretary Lord Mandelson to seek to part privatise the company by selling a minority stake to a commercial partner. However despite legislation for the sale passing the House of Lords, it was abandoned in the House of Commons after strong opposition from backbench Labour MPs. The government later cited the difficult economic conditions for the reason behind the retreat.
Following the 2010 general election the new Business Secretary in the Coalition government, Vince Cable, asked Richard Hooper CBE to update his report. Based on the Hooper Review Update the government passed the Postal Services Act 2011. The Act allows for up to 90% of Royal Mail to be privatised with at least 10% of shares being held by Royal Mail employees.
As part of the 2011 Act, Postcomm was merged into the communications regulator Ofcom on 1 October 2011, with Ofcom introducing a new simplified set of regulations for postal services on 27 March 2012. On 31 March 2012 the government took over the historic assets and liabilities of the Royal Mail pension scheme which ran at a considerable deficit. On 1 April 2012 Royal Mail's subsidiary Post Office Ltd was separated from the group. The Act also contains the option for Post Office Ltd to become a mutual organisation in the future.
During the 2012 London Olympics, Royal Mail offered an incentive for Team GB athletes to win Gold Medals through the promise to paint a postbox in the hometown of each recipient gold and a box near Westminster Abbey was painted gold as a demonstration model. Similarly, special sets of stamps were, and will continue to be, introduced for all British 2012 Olympic Gold Medal athletes, the first being for rowers Helen Glover and Heather Stanning, who won the women's coxless pair. This is the first time that stamps have been issued one day after the event they commemorate.
In July 2012 Ofcom consulted on a scheme proposed by Royal Mail to alter its delivery obligations to allow larger postal items to be left with neighbours rather than returning them to a Royal Mail office to await collection. The scheme was presented as offering consumers greater choice for receiving mail when not at home and was said to follow Royal Mail research from a 'delivery to neighbour' trial across 6 areas of the UK that showed widespread consumer satisfaction. In a statement dated 27 September 2012, Ofcom announced it would approve the scheme after noting that more goods were being purchased over the internet and that Royal Mail's competitors were permitted to leave undelivered items with neighbours. People who wish not to have parcels left with neighbours, or to receive those of others, can opt out by displaying a free opt-out sticker near their letterbox. Royal Mail remains liable for undeliverable items until they are received by the addressee.
- 1516: Royal Mail established by Henry VIII under Master of the Posts.
- 1635: Royal Mail service first made available to the public by Charles I.
- 1654: Oliver Cromwell grants monopoly over service in England to "Office of Postage".
- 1657: Fixed postal rates introduced.
- 1660: General Post Office (GPO) officially established by Charles II.
- 1661: First use of date stamp. First Postmaster General appointed.
- 1784: First Mail coach (between Bristol and London).
- 1793: First uniformed delivery staff. Post Office Investigation Branch formed, the oldest recognised criminal investigations authority in the world.
- 1830: First mail train (on Liverpool and Manchester Railway).
- 1838: Post Office Money order system introduced.
- 1839: Uniform Fourpenny Post introduced.
- 1840: Uniform Penny Post introduced.
- 1840: First adhesive stamp (the Penny Black).
- 1852: First Post Office pillar box erected (in Jersey).
- 1853: First post boxes erected in mainland Britain.
- 1857: First wall boxes installed Shrewsbury and Market Drayton
- 1863: First trial of the London Pneumatic Despatch Company to send mail by underground rail between postal depots.
- 1870: Post Office begins telegraph service.
- 1870: Post Office Act banned sending of `indecent or obscene` literature; introduced the ½d rate for postcards; banned the use of cut-outs from postal stationery; introduced the ½d rate for newspapers; provided for the issue of newspaper wrappers.
- 1880: First use of bicycles to deliver mail.
- 1881: Postal order introduced.
- 1882: Army Post Office Corps formed from GPO employees (see British Forces Post Office)
- 1883: Parcel post begins.
- 1894: First picture postcards.
- 1912: Post Office opens national telephone service.
- 1919: First international airmail service developed by Royal Engineers (Postal Section) and Royal Air Force.
- 1927: Opening of the London Post Office Railway
- 1941: Airgraph service introduced between UK and Egypt. The service was later extended to: Canada (1941), East Africa (1941), Burma (1942), India (1942), South Africa (1942), Australia (1943), New Zealand (1943) Ceylon (1944) and Italy (1944).
- 1941: Aerogram service introduced.
- 1968: Two-class postal system introduced. National Giro bank opens.
- 1969: General Post Office changes from government department to nationalised industry.
- 1971: Postal services in Great Britain were suspended for two months between January and March as the result of a national postal strike over a pay claim.
- 1974: Postcodes extended over all of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
- 1981: Post Office Telecommunications services split out as British Telecom.
- 1986: Separated businesses of delivering letters, delivering parcels and operating post offices.
- 1988: Postal workers hold their first national strike for 17 years after walking out over bonuses being paid to recruit new workers in London and the South East.
- 1989: Royal Mail establishes Romec (Royal Mail Engineering & Construction) to deliver Facilities Maintenance services to its business. Romec becomes owned 51% by Royal Mail and 49% by Haden Business Management Ltd in a joint venture.
- 1990: Girobank sold to the Alliance & Leicester Building Society.
- 1990: Royal Mail Parcels re-branded as Parcelforce.
- 1999: A new business: Royal Mail ViaCode – or ViaCode Limited – was launched. This wholly owned subsidiary of the Post Office offered online encryption services to businesses, using "digital certificate" technology. The short-lived venture was wound up in 2002.
- 2001: In 2001, Royal Mail decided to rebrand itself as Consignia. This new brand was designed to show that the company does more than just deliver mail. However, the rebranding was short lived and in the following year the new chairman, Alan Leighton, announced that the company would become Royal Mail Group plc. Royal Mail Group would focus on its key brands — Post Office, Royal Mail and Parcelforce.
- 2003: Heathrow Worldwide Distribution Centre, a 100,000m² sorting office for international mail, is opened.
- 2004: Reduction of deliveries to once daily. Travelling post office ("Mail Trains") end. SmartStamp is introduced.
- 2005: Mail Trains re-introduced on some lines.
- 2006: Royal Mail loses its monopoly when the regulator, Postcomm, opens up the Postal Market 3 years ahead of the rest of Europe. Competitors can carry mail, and pass it to Royal Mail for delivery, a service known as Downstream access. Also introduces Pricing in Proportion (PiP) for first and second class inland mail.
- 2006: Online postage allows Royal Mail customers to pay for postage on the web, without the need to buy traditional stamps.
- 2007: Royal Mail Group plc becomes Royal Mail Group Ltd in a slight change of legal status.
- 2007: Official Industrial Action takes place over pay, conditions and pensions.
- 2007: Sunday collections from pillar boxes end.
- 2009: (September) CWU opens national ballot for industrial action.
- 2010: Bicycles begin to be phased out due to health and safety issues, 130 years after they were first used.
- 2010 (6 December): Hitherto free services were removed from the Inland Letter Post Scheme and became available under contract: Callers Service, Forwarding, Petitions to the Sovereign and to Parliament, Poste Restante, Private Post Box, Private Roadside Letterbox.
- 2012 (31 March): UK Government takes on historic assets and liabilities of Royal Mail pension scheme.
- 2012 (2 April): The management of Post Office Ltd is vested in a nine-member board of directors.
Royal Mail employs 130,000 permanent postal workers (2011).
To cope with the additional workload during the Christmas period (November and December), Royal Mail recruits an additional 18,000 casual staff to work in their mail and distribution operations. In 2010 they received 70,000 applications for these temporary jobs, while in 2011 this figure jumped to 110,000. In 2011 a new in-house agency, Angard Staffing Solutions, was set up to recruit temporary workers. Royal Mail was accused of trying to circumvent the Agency Workers Regulations, but they denied this, saying they only wanted to reduce recruitment costs.
Special Delivery 
Royal Mail Special Delivery is an expedited mail service that guarantees delivery by 1 pm or 9 am the next day for an increased cost. In the event that the item does not arrive one there is a money back guarantee. It insures goods between the value of £50 for 9 am or £500 for 1 pm to £2,500 (for either service).
There are specific areas of the country where later guarantees apply. Quality of service for Special Delivery is very high at around 99%, and has been consistently at or about this level for a number of years. It is used by a number of major businesses, as well as consumers and smaller businesses, and can be purchased through a postage account, a postage meter, or from Post Office counters.
On receiving the item, the recipient must sign for it. If the recipient is not in, then a P739 'Something for you' card should be left by the post delivery person.
Business services 
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.
Non-postal services 
The General Post Office introduced telegraph services in 1870 and telephone services in 1912. It took over nearly all of Britain's municipal telephone companies (the sole exception being Kingston Communications in Hull) and was responsible for the resultant telephone network until British Telecommunications (BT) was demerged by the British Telecommunications Act 1981. BT was later privatised in 1984.
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.
Prohibited goods 
Royal Mail will not carry a number of items which it says could be dangerous for its staff or vehicles. Additionally, a list of 'restricted' items can be posted subject to conditions. Prohibited goods include alcoholic, corrosive or flammable liquids or solids, gases, controlled drugs, indecent or offensive materials, and human and animal remains.
In 2004 Royal Mail applied to the then postal regulator Postcomm to ban the carriage of sporting firearms, saying they caused disruption to the network, that a ban would assist police with firearms control, and that ease of access meant the letters network was a target of criminals. Postcomm issued a consultation on the proposed changes in December 2004, to which 62 people and organisations responded.
In June 2005 Postcomm decided to refuse the application on the grounds that Royal Mail had not provided sufficient evidence that carrying firearms caused undue disruption or that a ban would reduce the number of illegal weapons. It also said a ban would cause unnecessary hardship to individuals and businesses.
In August 2012 Royal Mail again attempted to prohibit the carriage of all firearms, air rifles and air pistols from 30 November 2012. It cited Section 14(1) of the 1998 Firearms (Amendment) Act, which requires carriers of firearms to "take reasonable precautions" for their safe custody and argued that to comply would involve disproportionate cost. A Royal Mail public consultation document on the changes said: "We expect the impact on customers to be minimal".
The proposals provoked a large negative response following a campaign led by the British Association for Shooting and Conservation and backed by numerous shooting-related websites and organisations. A total of 1,458 people gave their views in emails and letters sent to Royal Mail. An online petition opposing the proposals was signed by 2,236 people, 1,742 of whom added comments. In the face of such opposition, Royal Mail dropped the proposals in December 2012.
Public interest 
The Royal Mail is regulated by Ofcom, while consumer interests are represented by Consumer Focus. The relationship between the two bodies' predecessors (Postcomm and Postwatch) was not always good, and in 2005, Postwatch took Postcomm to judicial review over its decision regarding rebates to late-paying customers.
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 their claims that more than 99.93% of mail arrives 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.
Industrial relations 
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, potentially affecting Christmas deliveries. The action was postponed less than 24 hours before staff were due to walk out.
Localised strikes took place across the UK from June 2009 and grew in frequency throughout the summer. 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 was passed in October, causing a number of two and three-day strikes.
Royal Mail is famous for its custom load-carrying bicycles (with the rack and basket built into the frame), made by Pashley Cycles since 1971. Since 2000, their old bikes have been shipped to Africa by Re~Cycle (10,000 as of 2008[update]). In 2009, Royal Mail announced it was beginning to phase out bicycle deliveries, to be replaced with more push-trolleys and vans. A spokesman said that they would continue to use bicycles on some rural routes, and that there was no plan to phase out bicycles completely.
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, Ascension Island and occasionally Walvis Bay, Namibia. It also visits the Isle of Portland, England twice per year stopping at Tenerife en route. It is the last dedicated Royal Mail Ship in service.
See also 
Post offices 
Post elsewhere 
- Australia Post – created in 1901 to replace the colonial post offices in Australia
- Canada Post – created in 1867 to replace the Royal Mail services in Canada; Royal Mail references in Canada disappeared after the 1960s
- Guernsey Post
- Hongkong Post – created in 1870 to replace the Royal Mail services in British Hong Kong (1841–1870); Royal Mail references in Hong Kong disappear after the handover in 1997
- Isle of Man Post
- Jersey Post
- United States Postal Service
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- "Postal workers vote on strike". BBC News. 17 September 2009. Retrieved 12 September 2010.
- "National post strike ballot". cwu.org. 16 September 2009. Retrieved 12 September 2010.[dead link]
- "Re~Cycle web site". Re-cycle.org. Retrieved 12 September 2010.
- BBC 30 December 2004
- Leach, Ben: Royal Mail to phase out cycling postmen, The Telegraph, 23 August 2009.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Royal Mail|
- Royal Mail – official website
- Post Office – official website
- Royal Mail Group plc – official website
- Royal Mail Group – About us: Facts
- GLS tracking – partner logistics company GLS does Royal Mail deliveries across parts of Europe (accepts Royal Mail tracking codes)
- Royal Mail chat – forum for postal workers
- Postwatch – The Consumer Council for Postal Services
- Postcomm – regulator for postal services in the UK
- Hellmail – covers news stories about Royal Mail and other European postal operators
- Mailroom News – covers news stories about postal operators
- The British Postal Museum & Archive – our history through the post
- Bath Postal Museum
- Organisation of the Post Office and its letter post operations (September 1984) from the Monopolies and Mergers Commission
- Inside Whitchurch, Hampshire Delivery Office on the day it was shut (2 May 2009)