RBS has announced plans to close 259 branches, cutting 680 jobs, in response to customers migrating towards online and mobile services.

In total, 62 RBS branches and 197 NatWest outlets will be shuttered by the middle of next year.

It said that in total around 1,000 jobs will be affected by the closures, but that it hopes to save some of those by redeploying staff.

“More and more of our customers are choosing to do their everyday banking online or on mobile,” a spokesperson for the bank said.

“Since 2014 the number of customers using our branches across the UK has fallen by 40 per cent and mobile transactions have increased by 73 per cent over the same period. Over 5 million customers now use our mobile banking app and one in five only bank with us digitally.”

Unite, the UK’s biggest union, representing staff across RBS slammed the move as a betrayal of communities.

““The closure of another 259 branches is savage and represents a betrayal of loyal staff and customers who have supported the bank for decades. Why is the Government signing off this alarming branch closure program?,” said Rob MacGregor, Unite national officer.

The bank is still 72 per cent owned by the taxpayer.

“A decade of slashing jobs has done nothing to boost morale, increase consumer confidence or improve the bank’s performance. This British-taxpayer funded bank should be concentrating on investing in jobs here in the UK, rather than cutting them wholesale,” he added. 

RBS said that it was writing to customers of affected branches to highlight the alternative ways to bank in their area. It said that it had created a special “taskforce” to assist customers who were not yet comfortable or familiar with using online or mobile banking. Those so-called community bankers will support customers with training and teach them the digital skills to bank online or on mobile. 

RBS has endured a tough ride over the last decade, since being bailed out for £45.5bn at the peak of the 2008 financial crisis.

At the end of October it beat analyst forecasts by posting an £871m operating profit for the third quarter of this financial year. That puts it on track to record its first annual profit since 2007 by next year. For this year, however, it is still expected to chalk up a loss.

The group is also still plagued by conduct charges dating back to the financial crisis, and it could still face action from the UK’s financial watchdog over its treatment of small businesses by its Global Restructuring Group (GRG).