Royal Mail is set to test drone deliveries, use barcodes on stamps and could launch a seven-day service as part of an overhaul of the 500-year-old pos
Royal Mail is set to test drone deliveries, use barcodes on stamps and could launch a seven-day service as part of an overhaul of the 500-year-old postal service.
Executive chairman Keith Williams told The Mail on Sunday he wanted to use the unmanned vehicles to fly deliveries to remote areas of the UK.
‘If you take, say, the Scilly Isles – an expensive piece of water [to cross] – they might be ideally suited to a drone,’ he said. Trials of the service in remote areas are expected to begin imminently.
Royal Mail is set to test drone deliveries, use barcodes on stamps and could launch a seven-day service as part of an overhaul of the 500-year-old postal service (file image)
Mr Williams is also examining putting barcodes on stamps to make it easier to track letters and parcels, and potentially launch a medicines delivery service.
During the pandemic, Royal Mail has helped pharmacies deliver prescriptions to patients who cannot leave their homes.
Mr Williams, who has led Royal Mail since German chief executive Rico Back was ousted in May, is trying to modernise the postal service, which has 130,000 staff and was privatised in 2013.
His most radical plan could see letters and parcels delivered seven days a week. Royal Mail currently delivers letters and parcels on Saturdays and offers some Sunday deliveries through Parcelforce.
Mr Williams said he had yet to decide on how weekend deliveries would operate, but they could be available as a ‘premium’ service that customers pay extra for.
‘We will probably need to deliver parcels seven days a week,’ he said. ‘The competition already does that. If the customer demand is there, then we should meet that.’
Referring to postal regulator Ofcom saying that scrapping Saturday letter deliveries would have no significant impact on customers, he added: ‘You then get to what is the difference between a parcel and a letter.
During the pandemic, Royal Mail has helped pharmacies deliver prescriptions to patients who cannot leave their homes
‘Ofcom has said five days of letters suits most purposes. That might well be right for the majority of letters. But if people need a premium service for the delivery of something, then we should probably deliver it.’ Mr Williams hopes to shift Royal Mail’s business from letters towards more profitable parcel deliveries. Earlier this year, it cut 2,000 management jobs amid a slump in letter volumes during the pandemic.
The postal service is struggling to cope with ‘exceptionally high volumes’ of mail after last month’s Black Friday shopping bonanza coincided with early Christmas shopping and a second lockdown.
A rush of parcels and online Christmas orders – which are expected to be up by 50 per cent on last year – has delayed deliveries and Mr Williams said the company had opened two temporary warehouses to handle demand.
Royal Mail also expects 10 per cent more Christmas cards to be sent this year as Britons reconnect with loved ones.