ROYAL Mail is to create 150 new jobs in Hampshire as it expands its £4.2billion parcels business.

A new depot will be opened in the county in the next two years which will create the delivery and collection jobs, Royal Mail will announce today.

It's part of a £75 million investment programme to grow its express parcels business in the UK creating 1,000 new jobs across the country. The news comes after a series of jobs blows to the local economy.

Ford last week announced cost cutting plans to close its Southampton plant next July putting more than 500 jobs at risk.

And British Gas is closing its city call centre by the end of this year with a further 500 job losses.

Earlier this month financial services giant Skandia also said it was due to axe 200 jobs, with the firm’s Southampton headquarters bearing the brunt, and at the start of October B&Q announced that 220 jobs would be going as part of a “restructuring” at the Chandler’s Ford-based firm.

Commenting on the Royal Mail announcement, Hampshire Chamber chief executive Jimmy Chestnutt said: “This is clearly good news and will be important for the county but will not offset the gap left by the loss of skilled manufacturing jobs in the heart of Southampton at Ford.”

Employment minister and Fareham MP Mark Hoban added: “It is great news that 1,000 new jobs will be created across the country as a result of this investment.

"We've now got a record number of people in employment and these jobs will provide welcome opportunities for people who are looking for work.”

Hampshire County Council leader Ken Thornber also welcomed the announcement.

He said: "Following the very bad news last week on the closure of the Ford plant in Southampton, I warmly welcome today's Royal Mail Group announcement that they are creating up to 150 new jobs in Hampshire as part of a £75 million investment programme for their UK express parcels business and opening a new depot in Hampshire within the next two years.

"Despite the current economic climate Hampshire's underlying economy remains strong and we are always looking for ways to increase inward investment, grow the regional economy and create the structures and initiatives for businesses to thrive. "

But a Royal Mail spokesman said no decision had been made on the location of the new Hampshire depot.

In the last financial year, Royal Mail parcels businesses accounted for 48 per cent, or £4.2 billion, of its of total revenues, excluding the Post Office. It is being driven by a rise in shopping over the internet, which grew by 20 per cent in the past year, and is expected to grow even more.

Royal Mail Group’s chief executive Moya Greene said: “Our £75 million investment is part of Royal Mail Group’s strategy to grow its parcels businesses in the UK and overseas.

“Our strategy is to convert the rise in parcel volumes in to profitable growth. That means becoming a much more customer-focused company being run on commercial lines and investing in new, vital technology.”

“The investment will enable Royal Mail Group’s express parcels business to meet the rapid growth in demand in the business-to-business, business-to-consumer and consumer-to-consumer markets.”

Another new depot will be open in Cornwall and a further nine existing depots either expanded or moved to larger sites over the next four years.