THE POSTAL system in France is still too slow and inefficient despite billions of euros of public investment, a report by auditors has concluded.
The Cour des Comptes said the way La Poste was organised presented "a major competitive handicap" and the group needed more focus.
The report found that many of France's 7,465 post offices had nowhere near enough customers to be viable, with 15% of staff serving customers for less than an hour in each working day.
In the biggest post offices, waiting times have fallen from eight minutes in 2008 to four minutes last year, but the auditor said there was still more work to do to cut queues, including longer opening hours and more automated machines.
The Cour des Comptes said €3.1bn had been invested in La Poste since 2004 to modernise the way post is handled. However the group's record for getting letters to their destination in one working day was "mediocre" at 84.4% - up from 69.6% in 2003 but short of the 90% target set for 2010 and worse than most other European countries.
The report also recommends that La Poste find ways of allowing customers to pick up parcels without the need to visit a post office. For example, an experiment was launched in Paris this year allowing commuters to pick up post from their local metro station.
The number of letters handled by La Poste fell 5.3% in 2009, and the organisation is expecting further declines between now and 2015, but the Cour des Comptes said the price of postage had risen accordingly to make up for the loss of trade.
Photo: La Poste