Martin Vander Weyer Martin Vander Weyer

Even Lassie gets to Yorkshire quicker than the Royal Mail these days

Even Lassie gets to Yorkshire quicker than the Royal Mail these days

Watching the charming remake of Lassie, I realised — stifling a sob — how easy it was to suspend my disbelief that a soulful collie could make a solo journey from the Highlands via Glasgow to a village in Yorkshire, arriving home just in time for Christmas. But I find it much harder to believe that a Christmas card posted in Sloane Street on 21 December could have taken until 8 February — almost seven weeks — to reach me in Yorkshire. Had the card, like Lassie, been impounded by pompous officials en route but bravely outwitted them? Had it tagged along with a good-hearted travelling showman in a caravan? That sounds far-fetched, I know, but no more so than the fact that the Royal Mail has just been fined £11.7 million by the regulator, Postcomm, for allowing 14.6 million letters to be ‘lost, stolen, damaged or interfered with’ last year. And that number can only be an optimistic guess, because Postcomm cannot possibly know how many letters are still out there like Lassie on a lonely hilltop, howling for their addressees.

If I have anything important to send these days, I pay the Post Office a minimum of £3.80 for ‘guaranteed next-day delivery’ because I no longer trust a first-class stamp to get it there on time, or at all. I bet you do the same. This loss of public faith in the Post Office’s ability to perform its basic function is one more rip in the cloth of civilised life, and can only get worse as Royal Mail staggers on, crippled for lack of investment and besieged both by private-sector operators nibbling at its business and union leaders doing their utmost to halt positive change. Some months ago Sir George Bain, former head of London Business School, was appointed to advise ministers on the future structure and ownership of Royal Mail.

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