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Royal Mail "Railnet", Willesden

Tuesday 10th June 1997.

By Richard Tomlinson

On the afternoon of Tuesday, 10th June, 1997, eleven members of the Institution met at 13:00 on the concourse of Euston Station.

We caught the 13:16 train to Stonebridge Park, it was then a short walk to the Royal Mail Terminal, arriving just before 14:00.   After security clearance, we proceeded to reception, signed in and were shown to the Lecture Room, where we were introduced to Mr. Alan Lucking, London Distribution Centre Planning Manager.  Mr. Lucking gave us a very interesting talk on why Railnet was built and the purpose of having a Central Railnet Terminal for London.

Stonebridge Park Terminal cost 30 million to build; the main complex stands 100 ft high, 2,500 ft long and is located next to the West Coast Main Line. The terminal has seven bay platforms with space to extend to accommodate future International Postal services.  The bay platforms can accommodate 12 car trains.

Part of the Royal Mail’s investment in Railnet was to have 16 specially built Class 325, 4-car dual voltage E.M.U.'s, which can operate from either 750v D.C. third rail or 25kv A.C. overhead.  The Royal Mail has a ten year contract with E.W.S., who operate their postal train services.  The 16 specially built units can be converted into passenger use if not required at the end of the contract.  Royal Mail can impose penalties of up to 2 million per year if E.W.S. fail to meet their targets.

In its operations, 7000 York containers per day are segregated by bag sorter, each container holds fifteen bags and over two shifts, 300 staff are on duty.  Two automatic machines with a combined maximum throughput of 8,500 items per hour; some 40,000 bags are sorted automatically per day.   Thirty seven trains and 550 road services operate both in and out of Railnet per day.  For the road vehicles, there are 42 road docks, including a ramp and a scissor dock.  When mail is delivered to the terminal by road, it takes just thirty minutes to be sorted and put on to the train and visa versa.

Mail arriving by train between 01:00 and 04:00 will be sorted and ready for the first morning delivery.   Mail leaving the capital between 16:00 and 23:00 for other parts of the country should arrive first delivery the following morning.  Mail for Inverness and the Highlands travels by air.

Terminals currently in operation: Low Fell (Newcastle) and Tonbridge.  Opening shortly: Doncaster, Shieldmuir (Glasgow), Stafford, Warrington and Bristol Parkway.  Seven months later I am pleased to say all these are now in operation.