Link network to discuss moves to ensure cash machines remain free to use

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Moves to ensure cash machines remain free to use are to be explored by a committee, according to network operator Link.

Members of the Link network have been in talks over how to fund the UK's free-to-use ATM network, which costs around £1 billion per year to run.

More than 70,000 cash machines are connected to the Link network, with 16,000 charging for withdrawals and 54,000 free to use.

Fears have been raised that more cash machines could start charging if arrangements for sharing the cost of operating the network break down.

Pay-to-use machines account for less than 3% of cash withdrawals.

Following a meeting on Thursday, Link said it had been agreed that a working group of members will "explore a way forward for the sustainability of the Link scheme".

The working group is expected to report back later in the year.

John Howells, chief executive of Link, said: "Link will continue to work closely with its 39 members to keep regulators, government and consumer groups fully informed.

"The Link network continues to operate normally and it's business as usual for consumers at all the UK's 70,000 ATMs."

Andrew Tyrie, chairman of the Treasury Select Committee, recently told The Times that it would have a "considerable" impact on customers, especially poorer ones, if banks started charging for cash withdrawals.