19 June 2003 | Robin Parker
The Royal Mail has been criticised for basing its decision to stop using rail for its freight network solely on price.
The group said that despite protracted negotiations, the prices charged by EWS, its rail freight supplier, were too high to justify using rail, even on a limited basis. Post will now be distributed solely by road and air by the end of this year.
Alan Harrison, a transport logistics analyst at Cranfield University, said he was "horrified" by the plans, which could increase environmental pollution and congestion on the UK's burdened motorways by adding 160,000 lorry journeys a year.
"Diverting such massive volumes to roads is counter-intuitive to any moves to reduce congestion," he said.
"Royal Mail's decision is based on price alone, which inadequately addresses the social cost. If the group was at all concerned about the impact of shifting to the roads, it should have stood its ground and maintained negotiations with its supplier."
Paul Bateson, Royal Mail's logistics director, said further talks would have caused unacceptable delays to its existing plans to restructure its distribution network to improve postal reliability, announced in a review last year.
"Other forms of transport can give us the same benefits, in terms of flexibility and quality, but at a lower cost," he said in a statement.