Rising parcel volume almost offset the fall in Royal Mail's letters volume, a trading statement for the nine months ended 27 December 2015 said.

The carrier said performance was “in line with expectations” after parcels volume in December 2015 grew 6% year-on-year, with Royal Mail handling more than 150m parcels throughout the month.

Parcels volume in the carrier’s UKPIL (UK) operation saw an increase of 1%, however the 2% in decline in letters volume brought overall turnover down 1% on the same period last year. Parcelforce, however, saw its volume shoot up by 15%.

Royal Mail said that its pan-European operation, GLS, had performed “better then expected”, with volume up 11% and turnover growth of 10%. This was despite a €55m (£40m) fine from the French competition industry for a breach of competition law in the country.

The sum, said Royal Mail, was “fully provided for in [its] professional statements for the year ended 29 March 2015”.

Royal Mail chief executive Moya Greene (pictured) praised the company’s performance over the festive peak.

"Once again, our postmen and women delivered a great Christmas - even better than last year's strong performance. This is because of the commitment of our people and our investment in additional temporary staff and sorting capacity.

“Extensive planning, which began in the spring, ensured we had the capacity to accommodate additional volumes from our retail customers and other delivery operators.”

Greene added that Royal Mail was “on track” to reduce its underlying operating costs by 1% over the course of the current financial year.