Computer says this postman should be able to walk at 4mph

IT WAS the pace set by the demanding army general Lucian Truscott, who pushed his troops to march at 4mph to increase the distance they covered during the Second World War.

The gruelling "Truscott Trot", which upped the speed from the normal 2.5mph, became famous for creating some of the fittest and strongest soldiers in the war.

However, now postal workers are claiming that they are being subjected to similar treatment from their Royal Mail managers as they carry out their rounds.

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But rather than creating troops of super-fit posties, it could result in mutiny in the ranks as beleaguered delivery staff claim the pace is impossible to keep up.

The Communication Workers Union (CWU) said delivery staff were being told to walk at a speed of 4mph, an increase over a previous target of 2.4mph.

This, it said, was being used as a cost-saving measure so that staff delivered larger quantities of mail in shorter periods of time. The union even said some staff have been sacked for being too slow.

The Royal Mail has denied the union's claims.

Postal workers say the problem centres on a Royal Mail computer system called Pegasus Europe Geo-route, which calculates the optimum post load that can be delivered by staff.

Postal workers claim they regularly have to work over their hours because the time allocated to complete their rounds is not sufficient.

One postman said: "The job is supposed to be done at a rate of four miles an hour.

"That is taking into account calling at doors for packets, recorded deliveries, registered letters. That pace is just not achievable."

Bob Gibson, the union's national officer, said postal staff were being bullied.

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"Royal Mail is using this system to meet financial savings without considering the physical realities of delivery rounds," he said.

"This is putting pressure on delivery workers and leading to bullying and harassment. CWU has an agreement with Royal Mail to jointly review all aspects of Pegasus, but the business has reneged on this and is pushing ahead with damaging changes without input from the union.

"This is having disastrous consequences on services in some parts of the country."

He added: "We need Royal Mail to see sense and review this system with the CWU."

The union says it is being inundated with complaints from workers across the country about the speed they are being told to walk at.

However, a Royal Mail spokesman said the claims were "nonsense".

He continued: "Royal Mail carefully plans every postman and postwoman's walk so that no-one is asked to cover a greater distance or deliver more mail than they are capable of doing and it's complete nonsense to suggest otherwise.

"The systems we use to help us plan the most effective delivery walks have been successfully used nationwide in many hundreds of delivery offices since 1996.

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"The average postman or woman covers just over five and a half miles on their walk over a three-and-a-half-hour period."

'Dejected, I could not believe my pace was still too slow'

'PAH. Piece of cake," I said, when set the task of walking along Princes Street in Edinburgh at 4mph.

As a keen runner, with longer than average legs, I thought it was a derisory task.

How wrong I was.

First I walked the length of Edinburgh's famous shopping street at 2.4mph – the speed posties are apparently currently told to aim for.

It did feel a little like a dawdle. Hordes of shoppers were overtaking me, and I felt a little like I was getting in the way.

It was a cold day and I wanted to speed up to keep myself warm.

So I approached the task of upping my pace to 4mph with confidence.

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Armed with a GPS-enabled watch to measure my speed, I set off briskly.

When I looked down to check my speed, expecting to have to slow my pace, I was shocked to discover I was going nowhere near fast enough.

I swung my arms, stretched out my legs and charged ahead as fast as I could.

I felt a bit like I was taking part in a walking race, legs firing back and forth like pistons, hips going 19 to the dozen.

I dodged shoppers, my makeshift postal bag (a laptop in its case) banging against my hip and threatening to whack passersby.

Some looked at me in alarm as I charged towards them, and either froze or quickly stepped out of the way.

Even the chuggers and market researchers looked wary and decided to avoid me – so walking that fast does have some benefits.

Once again, I looked at my running watch, certain this time it would show me I was going at least 4mph.

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It told me I was walking at 16.5 minutes per mile, whereas I needed to keep it at 15.

Dejected, I could not believe my pace was still too slow to meet the target. My time suffered even more when I was forced to stop repeatedly at pedestrian crossings.

By the end of the 0.81-mile walk, my heart was pounding and I was beginning to sweat.

The conclusion I reached was that it was utterly impossible to walk consistently at 4mph. I walked less than a mile.

For postal workers who have to walk for hours, it would clearly be even more difficult.

I dropped my pace to return to the newsroom, where fortunately we are not told to walk, type, eat or do anything else at minimum speeds, but just to meet deadlines.

On the way to the office, I passed a red-faced postman waiting for a bus at the end of his shift, looking tired and slightly fed up. I felt his pain.