As part of an on-going restructure to meet the challenges of full competition in the postal market and modernise the business, the Royal Mail is investing £20 million to create a state-of-the-art Mail Centre to serve its customers in the Thames Valley area. To identify the most cost-effective solution, the Royal Mail compared and evaluated sorting offices at Reading, Oxford and Swindon and decided to expand Swindon’s sorting office, increasing its workforce from 400 to 900 by June 2009. These decisions were not taken lightly. Having announced the closure of Reading and Oxford, Royal Mail project managers revealed three key factors underpinning the decision to relocate to Swindon. These were:
1. Swindon’s excellent logistical connections
2. Available development land
3. New housing developments offering staff a good choice at
With the postal market fully open to competition from 1 January 2006 and with 1 in five letters now handled by competitors, Royal Mail is making significant investments in new technology, infrastructure and its employees. Transporting vast quantities of mail meant the key objectives were to reduce operational costs and to improve the speed of postal delivery.
(Reviewing the building project which is ahead of schedule are from left: Royal Mail's Operations Manager Chris Griffiths, Swindon Borough Council's Director of Economic & Cultural Development, Bill Cotton, Royal Mail Commercial Manager Matthew Lawlor & Sinclair Brown – Marketing & Inward Investment Manager, Swindon Borough Council)
Although some post travels by air, most travels by road. The M4, M5 corridors mean that vehicles get further from Swindon in one hour than they can from the other two locations. With rising fuel costs, Swindon’s pivotal location has already proved crucial as it minimises the diesel fuel bill!
In spite of relentless growth of the internet over the last fifteen years, the volume of direct mail nationally has grown steadily. It only dipped 3.2% in the last year. The Royal Mail planned for growth and the new mail centre will have the biggest mail volumes in Europe with 1 million items outbound daily, and 2.5 million items inward bound for distribution.
The new Swindon sorting office will double in size to 20,000 m2 (3 or 4 football pitches). Tried and tested new equipment will increase the transit speed of items from 25,000 items an hour, to 35,000 items an hour. Finding a site big enough for state-of-the-art equipment was a key relocation factor. Of the three towns, Swindon first attracted attention because it had development land available at a reasonable cost per square foot. Having selected Swindon, The Royal Mail explored several sites but eventually settled on expanding their existing facilities at Dorcan. (When they moved into Swindon in 1974, The Royal Mail had the foresight to earmark a large plot of land and only developed part of the site).
The recruitment bill is a significant factor in company relocation and the cost of housing in Swindon is lower than Reading and Oxford. It is hoped this differential will persuade more staff at all levels to relocate. The North Swindon development is 10,000 new homes, and with other new housing developments underway, Swindon offers a wide selection of modern housing.
The Royal Mail’s Commercial Manager, Matthew Lawlor says ‘We are in a fully competitive postal market now and need to improve efficiencies. These projects are imperative and we must manage transition, rather then react to it. Our staff can embrace a better quality of life as they may be able to have a lower mortgage or an extra bedroom. And if we need more staff, Swindon has a large workforce with compatible skills, in distribution for example.’
According to Bill Cotton, Swindon Borough Council’s Director of Economic and Cultural Development, ‘New employment opportunities are a real boost for the town and we are delighted that The Royal Mail recognises Swindon ’s importance as a logistical hub. A recent survey by international property agency, Knight Frank, concluded that Swindon is well-placed to weather the current economic climate because of its strategic location. Companies settling here make sound, long-term decisions to invest in an area earmarked for economic growth and we look forward to supporting new arrivals to the town in whatever way we can.’
(Chris Griffiths – centre, is the Operations Manager at Dorcan. His onsite understanding has helped speed the building process. With him are Swindon Borough Council's Sinclair Brown (left) and Bill Cotton, Director of Economic & Cultural Development.)
Finally, Matthew Lawlor observes that ‘Just as The Oracle at Reading lifted the town’s reputation and made property prices rise, Swindon’s £1 billion town centre regeneration will make it a more attractive place to work and live. Once staff realise Swindon is set for growth and may be a good bet for investment, we think they’ll look more favourably upon relocation.’