1. ITV Report

Mail Centre Opens

New Royal Mail sorting office Photo: David Johns

This is what the future of post sorting looks like, according to Royal Mail. Their shiny new centre for Kent was given its official opening this lunchtime, though in fact it's been working since Valentine's day.

"We've got a lot more room to operate" says Royal Mail's Michael Green. "We've got a lot more space, everything is set up as it should be, everyone seems to understand better what's going on and the processes are a lot better here."

The site is part of a massive restructuring across Royal Mail that means sorting will no longer happen at Canterbury, Dartford, Maidstone or Tonbridge, though delivery offices will still remain at those sites. Plant Manager Keith Tomlinson explains:

"All of those plants were in excess of 25 years old. They were too small and basically there was insufficient space to house the latest automation which as you've seen today we've got here at Medway."

And that automation is certainly impressive. There are six sorting machines, each of which can get through 45-thousand items an hour. And the whole mail centre can sort 3 million items a night.

But in the move to Medway, 1200 staff were reduced to just over 800 though Royal Mail says those who left took voluntary redundancy or were allocated to other sites. A necessary move, the company's Delivery Director, Ray Thompsett, insists:

"We have to deliver the universal service obligation. And to do that we've also got to reduce our costs and modernise the company so it's a case of deploying the new technology, deploying the new methods in delivery so we can start to compete on a more cost-effective footing."

On a 13 acre site, the building's almost sixteen thousand square metres in size - and was built in record time. It's impressed the local MP, Mark Reckless:

"It's very important both for the future of Royal Mail, a wonderful modern facility, but also for Medway. Really shows Medway's open for business. This was constructed in 38 weeks, has fantastic access through the M2 and it's wonderful to have all these Royal Mail employees coming to work in Medway every day."

Many people now prefer cheaper, faster, electronic messaging over the postal service. But for those who still use it, it's hoped the new site will boost Royal Mail's next-day deliveries from its current target of ninety three percent.

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