State-owned post company Bpost is to reduce the number of red mailboxes on the streets of Belgium by one in four over the coming months, the company announced. The network will drop to 10,000 from 13,000 at present. “The network of red mailboxes has not been adapted to the evolution in customer behaviour since 2004,” said spokesperson Barbara Van Speybroeck. For which read: the explosion in the use of messaging technology, social media and email – although the latter was at that time already well-anchored in public and business use.
According to Bpost, the number of letters posted by members of the public in street-side postboxes has gone down by 60% since 2004. The reason for cutting less than 25% is the need to maintain a presence in more outlying areas; from some boxes, post office vans pick up only half a dozen cards and letters in a day.
The company said the rule would be maintained: one postbox within 500m in urban areas, and within 1.5km in rural areas. Letters can also be posted at post-points in supermarkets and other retail outlets, as well as in post offices. Anyone with a physical difficulty to get to any of those options can always hand a letter to the mail-carrier on their rounds.
Local authorities have already been made aware of the plans, which were intimated to the parliament’s infrastructure committee by Bpost CEO Koen Van Gerven in June this year.
Meanwhile Bpost shares plunged by at least 20% at the opening of trading yesterday to a new record low of €9.07. Trading was high, signifying that many shareholders were dumping their stock after the company issued a profits warning after the close of trading on Monday. The company blamed a new agreement with employees, rising costs and the introduction of a new distribution model, estimated to cost €10 to €15 million extra.