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changes to post box collections

Has the last post gone?

Collection Plate on a postboxCollection Tabs

Royal Mail told us that on 1 June 2006 93,000 of its 116,000 post boxes had their collection tabs re-instated. The remaining 23,000 post boxes will not have a collection tab.

On the 19 September 2006, Postwatch undertook a one day survey to see if this was the case.

If a post box has a collection tab holder, then the post box should have a collection tab. Some post boxes will have dials in place of tabs but serve the same purpose.

The results (below) were encouraging but more still needs to be done by Royal Mail to ensure that all 93,000 post boxes have a collection tab. Some areas were better than others. Postwatch staff and committee members throughout the UK visited a total of 1,647 post boxes.

If a customer notices a post box without a collection tab they should do the following:


In August 2002, Royal Mail decided to remove the collection tabs from all pillar boxes throughout the country. This meant that all the 116,000 boxes had tabs removed.

Individual collection times were no longer displayed on the boxes– only the last collection time of the day was provided. Collections were made throughout the day according to how much mail was put in the box and when it needed emptying.

Postwatch understand the rationale behind not making collections at set times throughout the day. However, due to improved sorting technology Royal Mail tells us that letters collected at the end of the day are just as likely to get to their destination the next day as letter collected earlier. In some cases, letters in early collections were not being sorted until the last collections of the day came in anyway.

At the same time Royal Mail also stopped using the little metal tabs, which indicated the next collection time, which allowed customers to know whether a particular collection had been made.

Therefore, customers had no way of knowing whether the last collection of the day had taken place or not. We felt this was essential. When customers post a first class letter at the end of the day, they need to know if it can still be delivered the next day or not. The metal tab that indicates that the postman has made that collection is simple, effective and easily understood. A tab indicating days of the week would let customers know whether they have missed that day’s post or not.

Royal Mail originally told us that the tabs would be re-instated from September 2004 starting in the cities. The re-instatement programme was due to be completed by the end of October, then by the end of November 2004.

Postwatch carried out a survey across the UK between 21st and 31st January 2005, to see that tabs have been re-instated. The results of this exercise were given to Royal Mail. Postwatch staff and committee members throughout the UK visited 2,600 post boxes. The findings were:

Following this exercise, Postwatch continued to monitor collection tabs. This resulted in a further survey during August – September 2005. Once more Postwatch staff and committee members throughout the UK visited a total of 2,710 post boxes. The findings were:

As you can see, the results of those surveys were very poor. Therefore, Postwatch went back to Royal Mail who explained that due to a number of problems the exercise of re-instating the collection tabs had taken longer than expected, but stated that all post boxes that should have collection tabs will have tabs by 1st June 2006.

If you would like to complain or comment about this issue, please see the complaints section of our website for details on how to make a complaint.

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