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The great mail robbery

The accusation that Royal Mail was flogged-off cheap rumbles on. There was certainly something fishy about the floatation – this was no “Tell Sid” operation with the aim of getting the wider public interested in buying the shares. The old Royal Mail was, amongst other things, a large property portfolio.

In most of the large cities there were sorting offices on central sites close to the main railway stations, to suit the distribution system which had been built up in the 1840s, with the long-distance traffic going by train, both ordinary passenger trains and the special travelling post office trains where mail bags were picked-up and dropped on the way, without the trains having to stop.

The Post Office gradually shifted to distribution by road and air. From the 1990s onwards, the centrally-located sorting offices, such as the large site at Mount Pleasant in London, were shut and replaced by larger, out-of-town centres. These properties are now ripe for redevelopment and the new owners will make a packet. The nationalised post office was, to say the least, lackadaisical about making the most of these assets but the public has been fleeced in letting them go on the cheap.