ALMOST 300 extra staff will be employed by the Royal Mail in West Yorkshire in a bid to ensure the Christmas post reaches its destination on time.

A staggering 26.5m cards and letters are to expected to be delivered in the Huddersfield, Bradford and Halifax areas over the next month.

An extra 299 staff will be taken on in the towns to supplement the 1,856- strong army of regular employees.

A further 51 road vehicles will be also used on top of the usual 245 lorries and vans during the Christmas period.

Andy Lamb, Royal Mail's West Yorkshire area manager said: "We strive for excellence all year round and we know that our customers do not stop writing their normal mail just because it is Christmas.

"We would ask all our customers to help them by using the postcode so we can deliver their mail as quickly and efficiently as possible."

The Royal Mail handled nearly 2.1bn cards and letters across the UK in the four weeks to Christmas, 2002, and is expecting to handle the same amount this year.

On the busiest days in the run-up to Christmas, Royal Mail's post bag virtually doubles in size from its normal 82m items a day to almost 164m.

On the peak day, Monday, December 15, the Royal Mail expects to handle almost 135m items of mail.

And in the week before Christmas, postings are likely to be around 110m each day.

The last delivery before Christmas will be on Christmas Eve with a final collection on the same day at noon.

Saturday December 27 has been designated a non-service day. Normal deliveries will be back on Monday December 29.

The recommended last posting dates for Christmas this year are: Thursday December 18 for second class mail and Saturday, December 20 for first class mail.

For overseas Christmas airmail, the last posting dates are: Monday December 8 for airmail letters outside Europe, except Canada, USA, Japan and eastern Europe, and Monday December 15 for airmail letters to western Europe and Eire.

To find out a postcode ring the Royal Mail helpline on 08457 111 222 or find them on the internet by logging on to its website at