What happened to the TPOs?
The TPO service was cut back during the First and Second World Wars as part of wartime economy. TPOs ran on major routes carrying sealed bags only, without sorting. After the Second World War, few of the TPOs recommenced operations due to a reduction in the number of deliveries.
This post war lull, coupled with Dr Beeching's report on the reshaping of British Railways in 1963, meant that a number of quieter lines and stations on the TPO network closed. From then on the TPO network went into decline. In 1988, a radical TPO review was introduced which meant the reduction, re-routing and removal of numerous TPOs. This left only 35 in service, and by 1994 this was just 24. By the end of 2003, there were few dedicated services still operating and the golden era of TPOs was coming to an end.
"TPOs were the backbone of the long distance rail network for well over a century…it might seem strange to end them, but it's worth reminding ourselves why it has to be… technology has moved on and with the big increase in machinable letters, the proper place to sort them is within a mail centre..."
- Steve Griffith, TPO Manager, 2004
In recent years, many mail routes have been revised and large volumes of mail have been transferred to air and back to the road. This, coupled with problems over service level agreements and a rising concern for the health and safety of staff, meant that the decision was finally made to dispense of all TPO operations. The last TPO services ran on the night of 9 January 2004.