Christmas rush at Northampton Royal Mail centre

The Royal Mail sorting office in Northampton is expecting to deal with more than one million letters and packages a day during its busiest week of the year.

An extra 400 staff have been taken on at the South Midlands Mail Centre, in Swan Valley, to help ensure post is delivered as quickly as possible.

Royal Mail's South Midlands Mail Centre, Swan Valley Way. 'Renato Senatore, plant manager, with an example of some badly addressed letters.

Royal Mail's South Midlands Mail Centre, Swan Valley Way. 'Renato Senatore, plant manager, with an example of some badly addressed letters.

Renato Senatore, plant manager, said there had been a noticeable upturn in the number of parcels being delivered as a result of the increasing popularity of internet shopping.

He said: “Across the business there has been a decline in letter traffic, but we’ve seen a lot more parcels this year as it seems more people are shopping online.

“Our busiest days tend to be on the Mondays in December as people seem to write their Christmas cards at the weekend then post them.”

Mr Senatore said the main problem Royal Mail staff encountered was people failing to put a postcode or a full address on letters.

On a tour around the sorting office, the Chronicle & Echo was shown letters which had been posted with no other address details other than “Olive” or “Graham”.

Mr Senatore said another popular address which people often got wrong. was Father Christmas’s. His official address is Santa’s Grotto, Reindeerland, SAN TA1.

Mr Senatore said: “We would advise people to address mail clearly and wrap packages securely.

“If you do not know the post code of an address there is a tool on the Royal Mail website to find out.”

The mail centre in Northampton, which opened in 2010, is using the latest technology to ensure the post is sorted as quickly as possible.

When post first arrives into the mail centre it is placed in a large machine, which analyses the stamps before sorting letters into first and second class.

The mail is then put into a separate machine which can sort up to 40,000 pieces of mail by scanning the postcodes.

However, the machine is only able to sort the mail if the envelopes are white and of a standard shape.

If the card is an unusual shape or a different colour, such as red, it needs to be sorted by hand.

However, this should not mean that cards in coloured envelopes will take longer to be delivered.

The plant manager said he was hoping there would be no snow fall before Christmas as it would disrupt the delivery time of all letters and packages.

He said: “Weather has an impact on deliveries, but everything is going really well at the moment. We just hope we don’t get too much snow.”

To guarantee that letters or packages will get to a UK destination before Christmas, anyone using a second class stamp needs to post items by Tuesday, December 18. The deadline for first class post is December 20, tracked items December 21 and special delivery by December 22.

Royal Mail is expected to have its busiest day of the year on Monday, December 17 with tens of millions of items likely to be sorted and delivered across the UK.

The South Midlands Mail Centre has taken on 400 extra staff during the festive period to deal with the extra piles of post.

Sorting machines can process 40,000 pieces of mail every hour.