Fears have been raised that postal services in rural areas could suffer after Royal Mail moved to bring forward collection times at half its mail boxes.
Up to 50,000 post boxes will move to the earlier collection time – typically 9am to 3pm – although the company pledged there would still be a late box within half a mile.
It also promised to introduce 2,000 new boxes in areas of under-provision, particularly rural areas of Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Royal Mail insisted the changes would ensure it is able to maintain its estate of 115,000 post boxes, despite a 33% drop in volumes since 2005.
However SNP postal services spokesman Mike Weir, the Angus MP, raised concerns last night.
“While this has been spun to show we will be getting more post boxes, in reality many areas will be left with fewer mail uplifts,” he said.
“This is yet more evidence of the way the privatisation of Royal Mail has affected the service, and it comes weeks after Royal Mail themselves have been called for action from Ofcom as they may not be able to sustain the universal service.
“Again it looks like rural areas will suffer as Royal Mail fights off the competition.”
Royal Mail said the changes would help make efficiency savings, while adding that many post boxes no longer cover their costs.
“Rather than decommission uneconomic post boxes, while staying within the regulated density requirement, Royal Mail will ensure their viability by improving the efficiency of its collections arrangements,” it said.
The company added it had discussed its plans with Citizen’s Advice and also notified watchdog Ofcom.
The regulator requires that 98% of all households should be within half a mile of a post box.
With the addition of around 2,000 new post boxes, Royal Mail insisted it would improve on its current rate of 98.32%.
An Ofcom spokeswoman said: “Ofcom recognises the need for Royal Mail to become more efficient so it can sustain a universal postal service that consumers value highly.
“While the changes won’t affect the majority of postal users, Ofcom expects Royal Mail to communicate clearly with any affected consumers and ensure that their reasonable needs continue to be met.”