The European Commission has approved a £450m aid package to help the Royal Mail keep open its 8,500 post offices in rural Britain.
Over the next three years £150m will be spent to maintain subpostmasters' incomes, fund services such as computer systems and develop innovative ways of delivering post.
Department of Trade and Industry secretary Patricia Hewitt said: “The cash will provide a vital life line to rural communities and help ensure our post offices deliver the best possible services to the people they serve."
The Royal Mail welcomed the lifeline but said that the network still faced huge challenges and that if post office branches were to stay open “people need to use them".

The widespread adoption of GM crops would not tackle world hunger as their promoters claim, according to charity group ActionAid.
In a report published today, ActionAid said its research in four continents among nine million farmers, concludes that GM crops are more likely to benefit rich corporations than poor people.
The report said it can cost up to £200m and 12 years to develop a GM crop, and that cost has to be recouped by selling to farmers who can pay for it. "It is not the interests of poor farmers but the profits of the agrochemical industry that have been the driving force behind the emergence of GM agriculture.”