ROYAL Mail has announced the final details of its Christmas operation for this year - designed to ensure delivery of 2.1 billion cards, letters and packets over the festive period.
Some 3,700 extra vehicles, up to eight additional flights a night and four rail services each day will support the network that distributes mail around the country and takes letters on the final leg of their journey throughout the year.
Royal Mail's chief executive, Adam Crozier, said: 'Christmas is clearly the busiest time of the year for Royal Mail and we plan very carefully to ensure we deliver a good service to our customers.
'People rely on Royal Mail at Christmas and they are right to do so. We are committed to giving them a high quality of service and our people work around the clock each year to make sure this is the case.
'More than 92% of first class letters are currently being delivered the day after posting - our best performance for a year. Our service levels have improved month on month since May, when major changes to our operation affected performance.
'We expect to handle 2.1 billion items this Christmas and on the busiest days we will deliver 120 million cards, letters and packets compared to our normal daily mailbag of 82 million items.'
An extra 3,700 vehicles will be hired to complement Royal Mail's 30,000-strong fleet, distributing mail around the country, as well as supporting the final leg of the delivery process.
And Royal Mail has agreed a contract with GB Railfreight for four rail services between London and Scotland, via Warrington, during December. These will distribute four per cent of the daily Christmas mailbag.
Mr Crozier said: 'We have been talking to GB Railfreight for some time about the provision of a small number of rail services to support our Christmas operation. Rail has always been an important part of our distribution network during the festive period because it gives us additional flexibility, particularly in extreme weather conditions.'
As part of the contract with GB Railfreight, two rail services will continue to run between London and Scotland until March on a trial basis. Royal Mail will assess whether they add service improvement to the air and road distribution network implemented earlier this year.
Mr Crozier added: 'GB Railfreight has come up with a commercially acceptable rail option, based on price - something which could not be offered by our previous supplier.'
Up to eight additional flights will also take place each night during the festive period, 31 flight from 22 airports run each night during the rest of the year.