NPT lasted until the end of when it was recoded NP9. When the national postcode system was introduced, many existing postal districts were incorporated into it, so that postcodes in Toxteth Liverpool 8 start with L8. The old coding lives on in a small number of street signs with for example "Salford 7" at the bottom.
In other cases, the district numbers were replaced with unrelated numbers. In London as postally defined , created postal districts are mapped unchanged to those of today but its much enlarged administrative area, Greater London, was created in April Additionally, there were too few postcodes to adequately cover districts in central London particularly in the WC and EC areas , so these were subdivided with a letter suffix rather than being split into new numbered districts so as to retain the familiar codes.
The Office for National Statistics ONS Geography maintains and publishes a series of freely available, downloadable postcode products that link all current and terminated UK postcodes to a range of administrative, health, statistical and other geographies using the Code-Point Open grid reference. The postcodes are alphanumeric, and are variable in length: ranging from six to eight characters including a space. Each post code is divided into two parts separated by a single space: the outward code and the inward code respectively.
The outward code includes the postcode area and the postcode district , respectively. The inward code includes the postcode sector and the postcode unit respectively. The outward code is the part of the postcode before the single space in the middle. It is between two and four characters long. A few outward codes are non-geographic, not divulging where mail is to be sent.
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The postcode area is part of the outward code. The postcode area is either one or two characters long and is alphabetical. The postcode district is one digit, two digits or a digit followed by a letter. The inward code is the part of the postcode after the single space in the middle.
It is three characters long. The inward code assists in the delivery of post within a postal district. The postcode unit is two characters added to the end of the postcode sector. A postcode unit generally represents a street, part of a street, a single address, a group of properties, a single property, a sub-section of the property, an individual organisation or for instance Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency a subsection of the organisation.
The level of discrimination is often based on the amount of mail received by the premises or business. A postcode can be validated against a table of all 1. The following regular expression can be used for the purpose of validation:.
The following regular expression can be used for the purpose of validation and includes postcode formats from Special Cases :. CX GIR? All or part of one or more postcode districts are grouped into post towns. In a minority of cases, a single number can cover two post towns—for example, the WN8 district includes Wigan and Skelmersdale post towns. The independent jurisdiction of Sark was assigned a unique postcode prefix GY10 in to differentiate it from Alderney. Sark should have had its own identity back then [when postcodes were adopted in ]".
Some of the British Overseas Territories have their own postcodes or postcode systems:. These were introduced because mail was often sent to the wrong place, e. Mail from the UK continues to be treated as international, not inland, and sufficient postage must be used. Royal Mail's Heathrow centre collects all live underpaid mail for surcharging, and there is a reciprocal arrangement with postal services around the world to collect. An agreed payment based on volumes is made, year on year.
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Other forms of postage are collected at local mail centres, but Heathrow collects those that still get forwarded to them. Bermuda , the UK's most populous remaining overseas territory, has developed its own postcode system , with unique postcodes for street and PO Box addresses,  as have the Cayman Islands ,  Montserrat and the British Virgin Islands. British Overseas Territories typically have a local or UK government postal system operator see List of postal entities , even if a postal code is assigned by Royal Mail for internal UK routing.
Most postcodes apply to a geographic area but some are used only for routing and cannot be used for navigation or estimating distances. Non-geographic postcode area BX is used solely for non-geographic addresses, with codes independent of the location of the recipient.
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Many non-geographic postcodes do not appear on Royal Mail's own online postcode finder tool or their Click and Drop online postage printing tool, which can add to confusion when responding to organisations that use such addresses. Likewise, delivery services or couriers other than Royal Mail may not be able to deliver to such non-physical addresses. Postcodes are allocated by Royal Mail's Address Management Unit and cannot be purchased or specified by the recipient. However, Royal Mail sometimes assigns semi- mnemonic postcodes to high-profile organisations. The postcode printed on Business Reply envelopes which do not require a stamp often ends with the letters BR.
Postcodes are used to sort letters to their destination either manually, where sorters use labelled frames, or increasingly with letter-coding systems, where machines assist in sorting. A long string of "faced" letters i. The associated machine uses the outward codes in these dots to direct bundles of letters into the correct bags for specific delivery offices. With a machine knowledge of the specific addresses handled by each postal walk at each office, the bundles can be further sorted using the dots of the inward sorting code so that each delivery round receives only its own letters.
The mail bags of letter bundles are sent by road, air or train, and eventually by road to the delivery office.
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Integrated Mail Processors IMPs read the postcode on the item and translate it into two phosphorus barcodes representing the inward and outward parts of the postcode, which the machines subsequently print and read to sort the mail to the correct outward postcode. On such items the top phosphorous barcode is the inward part of the code, the bottom is the outward.
A newer system of five-digit codes called Mailsort was designed for users who send "a minimum of 4, letter-sized items". Mailsort users are supplied with a database to allow them to convert from postcodes to Mailsort codes and receive a discount if they deliver mail to the post office split up by Mailsort code. Users providing outgoing mail sorted by postcode receive no such incentive since postcode areas and districts are assigned using permanent mnemonics and do not therefore assist with grouping items together into operationally significant blocks.
Walksort [ clarification needed ] was discontinued in May There are approximately 1. Each postcode is divided by a space into two parts. As mentioned above, the first part starts with the postcode area and ends with the postcode district. The second part begins with a single digit, which indicates the postcode sector , and ends with the postcode unit.
Postcode areas are also divided into several post towns , which predate the introduction of postcodes, with the London post town uniquely covering more than one postcode area. As of June , there are postcode areas, 2, postcode districts, 11, postcode sectors, and 1, post towns.
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But most postcodes are shared by several neighbouring properties, typically covering about 15 addresses. There are also significant numbers of discontinued terminated codes. Each month some 2, postcodes are created and 2, terminated. The PAF is commercially licenceable and is often incorporated in address management software packages. The capabilities of such packages allow most addresses to be constructed solely from the postcode and house number.
By including the map references of postcodes in the address database, the postcode can be used to pinpoint a postcode area on a map. PAF is updated daily. On its poweredbypaf. Individual postcodes or postal addresses can be found using Royal Mail's Postcode and Address Finder website, but this is limited to 50 free searches per user per day.
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A complete list of all current Great Britain postcodes, known as Code-Point Open, has been made available online since 1 April by Ordnance Survey. Under the government's OS OpenData initiative, it is available for re-use without charge under an attribution-only licence. The Code-Point Open list includes median coordinates for each postcode but excludes postcodes in Northern Ireland and the Crown dependencies.
A further difference is that non-current postcodes and dates of introduction and withdrawal of postcodes are included. While postcodes were introduced to expedite the delivery of mail, they are useful tools for other purposes, particularly because codes are very fine-grained and identify just a few addresses. Among these uses are:. The phrase " postcode lottery " refers to the variation in the availability of services by region, though not always because of postcodes.