AFTER more than three weeks off the road, a vital mobile Post Office van which serves 10 rural villages in Northumberland was all set to roll again.
However, even with a replacement engine installed, the lifeline van couldn’t hit the road – because it unexpectedly developed a steering fault.
It had to go back from the workshop to the engineers, who laboured through the night in a second attempt to get it roadworthy.
And last night it was finally ready to go – with fingers firmly crossed.
Residents of the 10 villages in the Tyne Valley have been left without access to postal services since Christmas Eve.
Bardon Mill, Colwell, Fourstones, Humshaugh, Langley, Mickley, Newton, Ninebanks, Simonburn and Slaley – all villages which lost their Post Office franchises in recent years – were left high and dry.
Stocksfield postmaster Martin Nichol, who owns the mobile van regional franchise, said: “Apparently, when the workshop got the van back, there was a steering fault and it couldn’t be delivered.
“They worked on that all night and finally delivered the van yesterday morning – but then I had to check all the computers to make sure everything was OK, so it was another day before it could go back into operation. It’s been a long time for all the villages to have the van off the road but, with luck, it will be back on the road this morning.”
A Post Office Ltd spokesman said: “During the afternoon when they were working on the vehicle, it appears they found another fault.
“We had them working overnight on it but it didn’t get back on site until yesterday, when there were a number of back-ups that still needed to be completed before the vehicle could get back on the road.
“We do realise how inconvenient this is and apologise, but we have worked hard to get this sorted out.”
Villagers deprived of the mobile service have had to travel to alternative areas where there is still a high street Post Office.
But the absence of the service has meant some folk, particularly the elderly, have had additional difficulties.
No other vehicle can be used as the computers built into the broken-down van are specifically linked to certain areas and customer accounts.
Martin added: “I got a phone call at first saying the van was coming back and would be available to pick up.
“Then, when we were set to go, I got another call telling me there was a new problem.
“Finally, yesterday, we got it back but we still couldn’t get it on the road until I’d checked all the computers.
“But hopefully normal service will be resumed by today!”