Mail by Rail : Post & Go

In Feb 2016 Royal Mail issued the Royal Mail Heritage: Transport set. This formed part of the Royal Mail 500 celebrations. The Post & Go issues in 2017 will build on this theme and will explore the history of mail transportation in more detail. The first set of stamps in this series is Mail by Rail and the issue coincides with the 90th Anniversary of the Post Office Underground Railway.

The UK’s rail network has been transporting our post for more than 180 years. Indeed, mail bags were first carried on the Liverpool & Manchester Railway just two months after it was opened in 1830. In 1927 a dedicated underground mail service was introduced in London to bypass the growing congestion on the capital’s streets but this ceased operation in 2003.

The railways have played a crucial role in the history of mail transportation but there has been a move away from using the rail network in recent years with more mail now taking to the air and the roads.

The UK Rail Network

Often taken for granted and frequently criticised, the UK rail network is really rather extraordinary. Here are some of the more amazing facts about our railways:

  • The UK railway network features over 10,000 route miles.
  • There are over 50,000 bridges and tunnels across the network.
  • The Severn Tunnel linking England with Wales is the longest tunnel and is 4.5 miles long.
  • The Tay Bridge is the longest bridge on the network at 2 miles 364 yards.
  • The longest station name is Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch! If you want to check it out, you need to travel to Anglesey.
  • The busiest station in terms of train movements in Britain is Clapham Junction in London.
  • The station with the most platforms is Waterloo with 24 although 2 are not in use.
  • The highest point on the network is Druimuachder summit on the Perth to Inverness mainline at 1484 feet above sea level.
  • The lowest point is the bottom of the Severn Tunnel which is 144 feet below sea level.
  • Over 3.5 million passengers use the rail network every day.
  • 100 million passengers use Waterloo Station every year.
  • There are 150 stations in the UK where passengers are required to put their hands out to request the trains to stop for them.
  • Berney Arms station in Norfolk exists only to enable travellers to reach a public house.
  • There is only one train each week to Denton Station in Greater Manchester.
  • Altnabreac Station, Caithness is ten miles from the nearest road!
  • Suicides account for the majority of fatalities on the rail network.

The rail network continues to evolve and whilst less post is transported by train these days, there is no shortage of passengers. However, it may surprise you hear that only 8% of journeys are made by train. But if you are tempted to think that more people should be encouraged to abandon their cars in favour of the railways, think again.

If just 2% of road users decided to travel by rail instead, the network would need to increase its capacity by 25% in order to cope! Anyone who travels by rail during the rush hour would find this a rather scary thought!

We should appreciate the railways and the crucial role they have played in history of the nation, including Royal Mail. We have entered a new era of mail transportation and it will be interesting to see what the future holds.