The Post Office is to axe 600 free to use cash machines from its branches in a fresh blow to Britons who rely on cash to make everyday purchases.
There are 2,000 ATMs at Post Office branches but this will fall to 1,400 as the business prioritises cash points that it believes are commercially viable.
The cuts come against a backdrop of bank branch and cash point closures, making it more difficult for people who rely on cash to access it.
The rise of card, contactless and mobile payments, which has been accelerated by the pandemic, has made running many cash machines unprofitable.
However, cuts in the number of cash machines and bank branches are making it more difficult for people who rely on cash to access it, particularly elderly consumers or those without access to the banking system.
A report by consumer group Which? last year identified hundreds of ATM “deserts” in the UK with poor provision.
Cost-cutting has resulted in about 55 bank and building society branch closures every month since 2015, according to Which?
The Post Office does not own or operate any of the 2,000 ATMs at its branches, which are run by Bank of Ireland.
As part of its new plan it will invest £16m over four years into owning and running 1,400 free to use ATMs across the UK, which will be fitted with the latest technology. It will also become a member of the LINK ATM network.
The Post Office said it will retain 60 cash machines that are not commercially viable in locations where the next free to access ATM is a significant distance away.
Martin Kearsley, banking director at the Post Office, said: “This is one of the largest investment programmes in the free to use ATM market for over a decade.
"In the areas where we have been unable to sustainably operate the existing ATMs, customers can still withdraw cash over the counter free of charge and in a secure manner. Many of our branches are open long hours and at weekends, ensuring continued access to cash."
The company says that 99.7pc of the population lives within three miles of one of its 11,500 branches.
The Government has said it will legislate to protect cash and one option is for cashback to become more widely available from retailers without people needing to make a purchase.
Royal Mail is planning to hire a record number of temporary workers for the Christmas period due to a surge in online shopping during the pandemic.
It will hire up to 33,000 workers in the coming weeks, two-thirds more than usual. Most of the new recruits will work in sorting offices, delivery vans and data centres.