Subpostmasters are calling for a programme of government safeguards to protect the network from yet more closures.

The demand follows the publication of a government-commissioned report into the sustainability of Royal Mail. The Hooper Review recommends that some form of strategic partnership with a foreign postal operator be considered to help underpin the Universal Service, which it says is losing money. Dutch postal giant TNT has already expressed an interest.

The National Federation of Subpostmasters (NFSP) has warned that any such arrangement could risk a reduction in vital work upon which the network depends.

Currently, subpostmasters handle numerous transactions for Royal Mail, such as selling stamps and processing parcels as part of an exclusive deal with Post Office Ltd (POL). The NFSP fears that 1,000 rural sub post offices could close if that work was lost.

NFSP general secretary George Thomson said: “Subpostmasters are ever more dependent on Royal Mail transactions, with more than a third of POL’s and subpostmasters’ income coming from mail services. To lose some or all of that work would be catastrophic.

“We are calling for urgent clarification from ministers on how the review’s proposals will affect the network, and for guarantees which safeguard existing Royal Mail work,” he added.