A new parcel service offered by Network Rail in the UK will provide a more old fashioned alternative to the seeming flight of fancy that is Amazon Prime Air. Doddle will allow customers to send and receive parcels from the station. Staff will be on hand to deliver valuable parcels and offer advice on postage, and a smartphone and SMS service will notify customers of a delivery. The company will make its service available to as many retailers and parcel carriers as possible, making it particularly useful for travelers with no set address in the city.
The first ‘shop’ will be in Milton Keynes Central station in London, and project will soon expand to Woking and London Paddington stations, and Network Rail’s website says it will create about 4,000 new jobs by the end of next year. It still remains to be seen, however, how the branches will make money, a particularly pressing concern as Network Rail is set to take a 20% cut to its operating budget over the next five years. All it has said is that revenue will come from “multiple sources,” that common refrain of many a service in the new economy. The philanthropist and entrepreneur who started Doddle is also the founder and chairman of Travelex, so we’re not too concerned.
Amazon, meanwhile, already has ideas for a competing service. Many London Underground ticket offices are about to be vacated due to an approaching restructuring, and Amazon’s plan would repopulate them with its post people. Despite financial struggles, rail remains an incredibly popular form of travel in the UK – more people use London Waterloo and Victoria stations every day than they use Heathrow airport – and the 2,500 Network Rail stations have increasingly been seen as more than just places to wait for a train. This development makes it clear that this green form of travel will continue to innovate and take on new roles in people’s lives in the 21st century.