A MODERNISATION programme at Upper Stratton Post Office, which will extend opening by more than 30 hours, is making Barbara Linton and colleagues feel safer in their jobs.

The store in Beechcroft Road is one of 8,000 post offices across the country benefiting from a £640m Government investment programme announced in November 2013.

The money being spent at the post office, which is fronted by a news-agents run by postmaster Rohit Patel, will see it open from 7am until 7pm, Monday to Saturday, and 7am to 1pm on Sunday.

The development, the first of its kind in 11 years at the site, is a shot in the arm for employees like Barbara, who has worked as a clerk counter there for more than 17 years.

“It makes us feel a little bit safer,” she said.

“They don’t go spending money if they have plans on closing it down. It makes us feel safe.

“It’s really important too, because we have got three different old people’s homes, wardens’ places, around us up here.

“It’s quite important for us to stay close to them.

“They rely on public transport, so having us near them means they can still potter around and get to us, without the need to catch the bus further away.”

The newly modernised main branch will officially be opened on Friday, October 3 at 1pm, after a 10-day closure for the refurbishment.

The post office will close for the last time in its current guise at 5.30pm on September 23.

As well as the 31 and a half-hour increase in opening hours, there will be a new car tax service available alongside the traditional banking and mail services on offer.

“Most of them (customers) are quite chuffed. It’s going to be a bit different.

“Their main reaction is they think we are having two weeks off,” said Barbara.

“It will all take some getting used to. It will be difficult coming back to it all, but it’s just like when we switched from a manual operation to computers.

“It felt a bit difficult at first, but after two months you wonder how you ever got by without it.

“I think they are trying to say we are better than a bank – that’s why the changes have been put in. That’s the implication.

“We do a lot of banking functions here. It’s made the whole place more important over the years. I have seen it almost become as important as the mailing.”

Mark Jacobs, area manager for Post Office, said: “We know how important post office services are to residents in Upper Stratton and we are confident this vibrant modern post office at the heart of the community will be popular.”