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Royal Mail refuses to deliver bicycle statistics

Royal Mail has just replied to me regarding crash statistics for its vehicles.

A bit of background: I asked my MP to follow-up with Royal Mail after he obtained crash statistics from their CEO in February 2012. The statistics were used in part to justify Royal Mail’s reduction in the use of bicycles (see article on that HERE).

Last year, CEO Moya Greene stated in a couple letters from January and February 2012 that:

“We have seen an increase in accidents (sic) linked to the use of cycles on busy road networks and in a number of cases these accidents (sic) result in major injury to our staff.”

She said in business year 2010/2011 that there had been:

  • 576 bike related incidents which accounted for…
  • 2,748 lost working days.
Royal Mail bicycle FOI 2013-05 icon

Click to read the full FOI reply by Royal Mail to the questions.

(for why I put ‘sic’ after ‘accidents’ see THIS)

UPDATE 20 December 2013: Spotted in The Guardian – “Royal Mail to phase out post bikes completely in 2014

LOTS AND LOTS OF LETTERS

I asked Royal Mail, through my MP, in mid-April to provide: 

  • crash statistics and sick days for the past year (ie 2011/2012)
  • broken down by transport device – namely walking, trolley, bicycle or van.
  • I also asked if they could tell me the cost of using vans instead of bicycles.

They wrote back to say that, rather than the CEO answering, they would handle my questions under the Freedom of Information Act.

The reply from Royal Mail is dated 24 May 2013 and stretches across 4 pages!

First they reiterated what the CEO told me a year earlier about the type of mail changing from small letters to bulkier parcels…

Oh dear.

Now I started to think of a reason why the letter is 4 pages long: They were going to write a lot of words to cover for the fact that they weren’t going to answer my questions.

Well, I too will use a lot of words to pick apart their reply paragraph-by-paragraph. But knowing this will likely be as tedious as reading their letter, let me provide you with this summary…  (I still expect you, though, to read my very witty remarks for each paragraph).

Executive Summary

  • Go away and leave us alone.

Okay, that might be a bit too much of a summary. There were a few tidbits buried in their reply:

  • They want fewer staff driving their personal cars to deliver mail
  • They had a total of 16,000 ‘accidents’ in 2011-2012 (That’s not completely accurate but is close; I checked the source they referred me to.)
  • Injuries are logged
  • It is possible to identify the transport method being used at the time of the crash/accident (but they won’t tell me)
  • The geographical location of where incidents resulting in injuries is logged

Needless to say, I will ask my MP to appeal the FOI on my behalf so that we can get the answers both of us want.

UPDATE: at the end of July 2013, I received a reply via my MP that Royal Mail dismissed my appeal. Off to the Information Commissioner’s Office for another appeal, then!

In December 2011, my MP said (HERE): “no one wants employees to work in a dangerous environment, but I wonder whether withdrawing the bicycle and replacing them with vans is efficient and environmentally effective. I am pursuing this with the Chief Executive of Royal Mail.”

Paragraph 1: Wot U Wrote

Thank you for writing (actually they didn’t say that, they just quoted my questions and said they received them on 23rd April 2013).

Paragraph 2: The Times Are a-Changin’

Okay, let’s see what Royal Mail has to say about crash statistics. “The type of mail we deliver is changing…”

Hmmmm. Heard all that before – from their CEO last year!

Let’s trudge on… “To increase the safety of our people, and improve efficiency, we need to use more vans and trolleys, and fewer bicycles”

Well, okay, my questions are exactly addressing that claim! Show the statistics that back up your assertion that your people are safer using vans than bicycles!

Surely they are about to…

Paragraphs 3 and 4: Out with the Old…

“Every cycle delivery and foot walk needs vehicles to support it…”

This they use as an introduction to saying how they are now replacing their old, larger support vehicles with energy-efficient vehicles – as this will “also stop the use of thousands of private cars on deliveries.”

I was not aware that Royal Mail paid people to use their private cars to deliver mail.

Okay, learned something.

Click to watch 'Whitchurch Delivery Office Closes' from 2 May 2009 on YouTube

Click to watch ‘Whitchurch Delivery Office Closes’ from 2 May 2009 on YouTube

Mind, a fair number, and certainly those in my town of Whitchurch, Hampshire used bicycles not personal cars. You can see our local postal workers delivering letters and parcels by bicycle in my video HERE. I shot that on the day Royal Mail closed its local delivery office – 4 years ago! – and subsequently relocated the staff to far off Basingstoke. The bicycle shed disappeared shortly after that.

Paragraph 5: Exceeding our Obligations

Right. Surely by now we can get some answers…. “some relevant information is held,…”

Great!! Let’s have it!

But “…it would considerably exceed our obligations under the [FOI] Act to gather it in the format requested”.

Hmmmm (again). It was pretty easy for their CEO to get the statistics quickly (see above), so this just doesn’t wash with me.

Sadly, I am used to receiving FOI answers like this. I always appeal them. Sometimes all the way to the Information Commissioner’s Office. I often find that the information is released in the end; But isn’t it deplorable that we as taxpayers have to resort to months (!) of appeals to get at public information? I digress.

There was one useful tidbit in this paragraph: Royal Mail confirmed that injuries are reported and logged by the line managers to HR teams.

These injury records include “circumstances surrounding the incident and details of the location and injury caused.”

Clearly, then, it must have been through these records that the CEO could so quickly lay her hands on the bicycle crash statistics last year.

Paragraph 6: It’s not possible! Oh, yes it is!

“It is not possible to identify from the records kept how many fall within the categories [transport type] requested.”

Ha! Again, their CEO was able to do that.

Oh wait – here in the second sentence (my emphasis): “It is possible to identify those injuries caused as a result of car and cycle accidents…”

Now we’re getting somewhere.

No we’re not: “however this information is not broken down into the delivery method being used.”

So, it seems there is some nit-picking going on to deny releasing information they clearly hold.

They are making my questions out to be more onerous than they are!

  • How many people suffered an injury when walking? How many sick days total for that?
  • Ditto for being in a van, a car or on a bicycle.
  • Simples.

Sigh. This is a long paragraph. It continues.

They go on to refer me to their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Report for 2011-2012 where they state that there were a total of 16,000 accidents in 2011/2012 by their staff.

Unfortunately, that statistic wasn’t perfectly accurate. In actual fact, their report says there were 15,859 total ‘accidents’ (sic) in 2011-12 which compares to 19,389 the previous year.

There were 150,000 people employed in the UK by them in 2011-12., according to that CSR report.

Paragraph 7: Go away

blah blah blah resubmit your FOI blah blah blah it will be a new FOI blah blah blah and delay answers another month blah blah blah and keep us bureaucrats employed blah blah blah

Okay they didn’t say that but that’s what I read into it – what do they expect? It was a 4 page answer with no answer to the questions in it!

Paragraph 8: No Cost/Benefit Analysis

I had also asked for any cost analysis they had for using vans instead of bicycles for delivery.

“We do not hold a single cost benefit analysis document or report.”

I find that amazing.

Remember back in paragraph 2 what Royal Mail said?

Here it is again: “To increase the safety of our people, and improve efficiency, we need to use more vans and trolleys, and fewer bicycles”

How on Earth can they claim to be improving efficiency if they have no report or analysis to back it up?

Well, they do state in this paragraph that they do have this information. It’s just that it is all over the UK, including at 1400 delivery offices.

I wonder how the CEO feels about being left in the dark and having managers make assertions about efficiency without evidence to back it up to her?

As I said before, I find that amazing.

Paragraph 9: Go away (again)

Blah blah blah narrow your scope blah blah blah new FOI request blah blah blah

Paragraph 9b: Carbon Footprint Commitment

There was only one paragraph number 9. It was a huge one.

It should have been split into two.

Now Royal Mail digresses… “I would also like to stress Royal Mail’s commitment to reducing its carbon footprint and to build further on the 12% reduction we have already achieved in total CO2 emissions since 2004-05.”

Why are they going on about this?

It is irrelevant to the questions about crash statistics and business efficiency!

Sigh (again).

Paragraph 10: Vans! Vans! Vans! Or, Coming Full-Circle

This penultimate paragraph harps back to the second, third and fourth paragraph – it is about how Royal Mail really, truly need to use vans.

Fuel-efficient vans, mind.

It is a long paragraph.

Indeed, it is about the length of paragraphs 2, 3 and 4 put together!

Dear me.

Paragraph 11: Please go away

I can appeal this (non-)answer apparently. No guff. I will.

Paragraph 12: Really. Go away.

If I don’t like their response to an appeal, then I can bother the information commissioner’s office.

Yes, I expect that will likely have to happen in due course, given this letter’s tone.

Been there. Done that. Will do it again as that seems to be where Royal Mail wants to go.

So, there you have it. Four pages of nothingness.

Well, not quite nothingness, but mostly nothingness.

A fantastic example of how to try and make annoying questions go away. They won’t.

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