The e-commerce revolution is dramatically changing the face of the Royal Mail across the West Midlands - with posties on bikes virtually a relic of bygone days.

The rush to online shopping and a decline in letter writing has added to the strain for posties, with parcels now accounting for more than half of total revenue.

The once familiar sights of postmen and women on bikes is being replaced by shared vehicle teams of two in Royal Mail vans to ease the burden for workers on their rounds.

The phasing out of bicycles comes as the Royal Mail faces its biggest period of change in its near 500-year history following last year's privatisation and the continuing threat of competition from the likes of TNT.

But Royal Mail bosses and the Communication Workers Union say the bad old days of poor industrial relations and strike threats are long gone – with a new determination from both parties to work together.

Royal Mail spokesman Rhys Jones said: "This was a business that was losing £1 billion a year pre-privatisation. Last week, we announced profits of £670 million. There has been an incredible transformation.

"The e-commerce revolution has been a catalyst. It made the business realise that you cannot go on the way that we were."

Jon Good, delivery sector manager based at Tamworth, said: "The e-commerce revolution has been the biggest single factor (for change) and that has been driven by online shopping.

"An example is bicycles. We used to have cycles but now two people will go out in a van.

"There has been huge parcels growth and letters have declined. Many people now shop online and the growth over the last four to five years has been huge.

"Parcels have overtaken letters for the first time. Today our biggest custom comes through the likes of eBay, Amazon, Playdotcom.

"Ten years ago it was the billing companies, such as British Gas, British Telecom, catalogue companies. But a lot of that is done online now."

Rhys Jones said: "Our policy is to phase (bicycles) out. When you have got parcels, you can't expect people to cycle up hill and down dale."

Gary Pearsal, delivery office manager at Sutton Coldfield, said: "It is about looking after our staff. We are looking to give people more longevity. It is now all secure in one vehicle.

"There are still some exceptional locations where it is easier to use a cycle, people with 200-yard long drives, but only a handful. We are not putting them at risk on the road."

Mr Good added: "They drive out together in a shared vehicle and go with a partner. The overall amount (of mail) has dropped but the workload has increased.

"It is a case of efficiency. It is not just a case of getting people to work harder, it is about getting them to work smarter.

"We are working as a unit now, rather than us and them. We have got joint objectives where we have job security, a safe environment and we want to be successful. There was an us and them thing, but now we have joint meetings, joint communications with staff."

CWU Sutton Coldfield rep Bob Keatley said: "You have got to go with the flow. We have to get on and this has cascaded down from chief executive Moya Greene.

"There has been a definite change in mindsets. It's like the newspaper business when they went from printing presses to computers.

"We had to move on. If we had all stood still, we would still think that the world was flat. Who writes a letter these days? It's all e-mail.

"Industrial relations are far better than they were 10 years ago. At that time, I would be in one room and Jon would be in another."

Neil Lambert, CWU area rep, said: "This year, for the very first time, our chief executive Moya Greene held a question and answer session at our conference. I thought it was very, very good.

"She was talking about the competition, TNT etc. It is the first time that the company and the union has got one goal. At a local level, we still have minor flashpoints, but we seem to be able to get over them much more easily than we used to.

"It's about banging heads together. We are no longer fighting each other. There is a realisation that we have to work together. I think that previous managements would have seen the unions as more of a hindrance.

"The whole job has changed and I think that there is a willingness to work together."