Don’t use red envelopes!

With Mel Pierson, Plant Manager at Swindon's Dorcan Sorting Office

Recently Mel Pierson, Plant Manager at Royal Mail’s Swindon sorting office, invited Judith Bunting to see how their operation is gearing up for Christmas. As parliamentary candidate for the Newbury and West Berkshire Lib Dems, Judith was keen to see where the constituency’s cards and parcels are being handled.

Hosted by Mel Pierson and Robbie Curtis, the Communications Workers’ Union leader at the plant, Judith heard first hand how the service has been coping since the privatisation of Royal Mail and the importance of preserving the Universal Service Obligation.


The Universal Service Obligation places a legal obligation on Royal Mail to deliver to every home and business in the country, as well as to collect from every post box in the country six days a week, at the same price throughout the country.

Judith said: “It is critical we preserve delivery across the UK, 6 days a week. That is the contract the Royal Mail took on when they privatised. At the same time, independent operators without that obligation are able to take advantage. We need to keep a close eye on how this situation develops. Ofcom has many tools at its disposal to protect the USO. It could impose regulatory conditions on other operators to level the playing field.”


As well as discussions about the future of the recently privatised service Judith was keen to see for herself the Optical Character Recognition (OCR) machines in action. These read our handwritten addresses automatically and are the back bone of the operation.

Judith recalled filming these OCR machines back in 1987 for Tomorrow’s World when they were first introduced!

“It is fascinating to see how technology has advanced and how what was extraordinary back then, is now in every day use,” explained Judith. “Today OCR machines are the mainstay of mail sorting and 80% of letters are automatically sequenced by these machines.”


Judith also picked up some invaluable advice to ensure all our Christmas cards are delivered promptly:

“The automatic machines apparently have trouble reading addresses on red paper which can cause delays to red envelopes being delivered,” said Judith. “So the advice is while they may be very pretty and seasonal try not to use red envelopes for your cards this year!”

For more photos of the Swindon operation see:

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