Monday 25 March 2024

Post Horizon System Postage Labels

Three years ago Gareth Clark, Post Office Ltd's Strategic Platform Modernisation Director wrote about the way forward for the Horizon system, both in the wake of the Post Office Scandal and the fact that it was beyond aging and still creaking and bug-prone (although this was not mentioned at the time).  (Unfortunately the link to the original article is no longer accessible but it is in the Wayback Archive.)

From that earlier article, the "planned timelines for rolling out the new system are:

  • Late 2021: A pilot and very small version of the new system will be tested in selected new branches
  • 2022 and 2023: We will run pilots in branches to test the new system with different product groups and to understand how it works, ensuring we design and build with postmasters, for postmasters
  • 2023 to 2025: The new system will start to become available to branches, ultimately replacing the current system in its entirety."

I've not heard anything about development of a new system since then: the media and Computer Weekly have rightly been concentrating on the effects of the old system and delving into its predecessor, Capture.

So it is with some surprise that I found some examples of output from a new system in my inbox last week, including payment labels from a live trial which was taking place on one counter position at Aldwych Post Office six weeks ago.

Aldwych trial Post Horizon postage label Special Delivery by 9am 12/02/24

Aldwych trial Post Horizon postage label Special Delivery by 1pm 12/02/24

Aldwych trial Post Horizon postage label 2nd class Large Letter 12/02/24

Aldwych trial Post Horizon postage label 2nd class Signed For Large Letter 12/02/24

As you can see this last one has evidence of processing through Mount Pleasant Mail Centre and the Track & Trace webpage shows evidence of deliveries, the first being the 9am, and the second showing the other three items.

Collaboration with Royal Mail

Although the computer system is a Post Office Ltd project the postage system must at least be approved by Royal Mail and I shall be making enquiries about this.  The original discredited Horizon system was developed when POL and Royal Mail were still part of the same organisation and so when the, first white and then pictorial, labels were introduced they were a Royal Mail product.  

As can be seen, these are back to a plain white label, with the King's head and service indicator at the lower right being printed at the same time as all the other detail.  

I don't know whether this is a temporary arrangement for the trial, or if Royal Mail have decided that printing the very many double ended labels is an unnecessary expense and that these will suffice - after all a lot of postage - even generated by Royal Mail systems - does not show the monarch's head (Click and Drop, Tracked24/48 etc.)

Although it is acknowledged that the Horizon system needs to be changed, it is obvious that even an in-house system designed to serve "11,500 branches, outreaches and mobile vans" and the call centre will take many years and cost a great deal of money.  

If anybody visits Aldwych I would be delighted to receive a sample letter, and if anybody hears anything about extension of the trial or changes please let me know.


  1. They look to be about 95 x 42mm and there's not that space spare on many an envelope.

  2. Interesting article just one small query.
    The branch code shown on the labels is 009010 unless there has been a reason for Aldwych to change its code it has always been 008010.
    Is this merely a setup fault in the software.

    1. Might it be deliberately different for this counter position?

    2. I would hope to make a visit after Easter so will check.

    3. Although I have yet to visit Aldwych to check office code I am told that the trial of the labels has finished no further details known as to end date or possible other locations.

    4. Visit made today to Aldwych and I can confirm branch code is still 008010 so the 009010 code must have been specific to the trial.


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