TNT Post starts bike-based postal delivery trial in West London
Two years ago the Royal Mail announced it would phase out thousands of postal bikes in favour of trolleys and vans.
Although CTC opposed the move, including delivering thousands of CTC members' letters to Royal Mail HQ in protest, many delivery offices have switched over to the new regime.
Now those bikes are coming back - but under postmen and postwomen in a different uniform.
One of Royal Mail's competitors, TNT Post - owned by the Dutch national postal service - has started competing to deliver post to the doorstep, using bikes. At the moment it's just a limited trial - 400 delivery workers in west London, most of whom are using bikes, covering 250,000 households.
I have learnt many news skills through my cycling courses such as how to be safer on the road and a better understanding of the rules of traffic. Confidence has grown and I'm enjoying teaching others to cycle too now. I have become much fitter and my all round health is in a better state due to the regularity and distance I am cycling each day. Plus its enjoyable and fun!"
Mike Rigby, TNT Post employee
They even chose to use the same bike - the Pashley Mailstar - that Royal Mail is in the midst of abandoning. The Mailstar can carry up to 48kg in panniers and a front rack. With a three speed hub, chainguard and hub brakes, the bikes are sturdily built for low maintenance requirements and heavy use.
Deregulating the market
TNT's plans are ambitious, but they are presently held back by the rules around 'last mile deliveries'. Royal Mail is responsible for providing a universal service to deliver to all residences and pick up from all businesses. Thus even the remotest smallholding in Scotland receives a similar level of service to a flat in the centre of London, though the costs of delivering to one are far higher than then other.
In exchange for operating this service Royal Mail receives preferential treatment - other operators have to charge VAT on deliveries. Partial deregulation has already meant that private operators like UKMail or TNT Post, which tend to be more efficient and nimble, have won much of the business post market - the bills, marketing and magazines - leaving Royal Mail with lower revenues from domestic post and deliveries. Now even that precious delivery market could be under threat, with TNT Post trialling this new service in anticipation of full deregulation of the market, an aim for which they have been campaigning for several years.
However, when Royal Mail announced it was scrapping its bike fleet CTC lost all sympathy for its difficult position. They chose to replace the most efficient means of transport with vans and electric trolleys, thereby compounding their problems.
TNT, by choosing the bicycle as the main means of transport for their trial, have - by contrast - shown Royal Mail to be slow, plodding and misguided.