by Alan Watkins
Four hundred postal workers in Kent will lose their jobs when a new super sorting centre comes to Medway.
The Royal Mail has announced it will push ahead with a county postal hub on a derelict Strood site.
It will lead to the closure of sorting centres in Dartford, Maidstone, Tonbridge and Canterbury as well as nine delivery offices.
Around one in nine Kent postal workers – 400 of about 3,700 staff members – will lose their jobs.
The Royal Mail hopes to avoid compulsory redundancies under major plans to modernise services, reported exclusively by the Medway Messenger in September.
All mail posted to and from Kent will go through the new centre – big enough for new mail-sorting technology – earmarked for the site of a former Tesco distribution warehouse between Knight Road and Norman Close.
Royal Mail said the existing sorting offices are more than 25-years-old and “outdated”.
The Strood centre, which could open by spring 2012, would also be close to the motorway and rail networks – saving staff an estimated 600,000 miles a year.
Tom Willis, Royal Mail’s south east England operations director, said: “This decision represents a £70 million investment to modernise Royal Mail operations in Kent through new technology and working conditions for our people.
“We will be investing in more handheld tracking devices and a range of new delivery equipment better suited to the mix of mail we are now delivering to customers, which includes more parcels and packets.”
He added services will be more efficient and give staff a more modern working environment.
Mr Willis promised that Royal Mail will continue to provide convenient facilities for customers wishing to collect post.
Britons are posting 16 million fewer letters a day than five years ago and the Royal Mail earns £173 million less than a year ago.
Nine Royal Mail delivery offices, where postal workers and members of the public can pick up mail, are set to be rehomed:
* Dartford’s sorting centre will replace delivery offices in Swanscombe, Longfield, Erith, Bexley and Belvedere
* Canterbury’s sorting centre will become home to the delivery offices currently in Whitstable and Herne Bay
* The Tunbridge Wells delivery office will be moved to the Tonbridge sorting site
* The fate of Maidstone’s delivery office is not clear. It will be moved to a new site yet to be confirmed, but the County Town’s sorting centre will be sold.