Petrol-starved motorists urged to keep calm as millions head back to work

PETROL-starved motorists were urged to keep cool today as millions went back to work.

Many had spent the weekend struggling to refuel at packed forecourts — with up to 90 per cent running dry.

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Desperate drivers’ late-night attempts to fill up dashed in Ashford, Kent at 10pm on SaturdayCredit: PA
Early morning petrol queues in Wembley, North West London at 7am on Sunday

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Early morning petrol queues in Wembley, North West London at 7am on SundayCredit: Amanda Rose / Avalon

Fights broke out and there were fears schools could shut and care homes run out of food.

The Government insisted there was no fuel shortage and de­fen­ded plans to ship in foreign drivers to get ­tankers moving. But critics slammed the plan as “throwing a thimble of water on a bonfire”.

Last night the Government agreed to tear up competition rules so big fuel firms can work together to supply areas worst hit by shortages.

Appealing for calm, Transport Minister Grant Shapps said the crisis was being caused by panic-buying and insisted it would eventually resolve itself.

He stressed: “There is plenty of fuel within the country.

“If people fill up cars when they normally would, then you won’t have queues and you won’t have shortages at the pump.”

No time to drive

Desperate drivers queued night and day for petrol over the weekend — as the fuel crisis sparked scuffles on garage forecourts.

Some traded punches as their frustration erupted while they waited for hours to fill up ahead of a new working week for millions of Brits.

🔵 Read our petrol crisis live blog for live updates on the crisis

Ministers will place the Army on standby to begin delivering fuel, it was reported last night.

The Times said Operation Escalin — a 2019 blueprint created to handle the fallout from a No Deal Brexit — was “highly likely” to be put into action this week.

But it could take as long as a week to redeploy them and ministers hope the crisis will be over by then.

Roads approaching petrol stations were gridlocked yesterday — making it hard, if not impossible, for buses and emergency vehicles to get through. An ambulance even crashed into the back of one queuing car.

A carer told how she tried every single petrol station in a town to fill her tank to make vital calls to vulnerable people — but still could not find any fuel.

Another motorist was forced to spend the night in his car when he ran dry at a service station. Yesterday the Petrol Retailers Association said a lack of tanker deliveries and panic-buying had left “between 50 per cent and 90 per cent” of its members’ garages dry.

The scenes came despite the Government insisting there was no fuel shortage or need to panic-buy.

The man who berated me was kicking off so another guy tried to calm him down and they had a fight.

Amy, 35, of East London

But last night it agreed to tear up competition rules so that big fuel firms can work together to get petrol to parts of Britain hit by shortages.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng held crunch talks with industry chiefs which will see the suspension of laws so that companies can share information with each other.

Fears were growing yesterday that the problem — triggered by a shortage of delivery drivers — could result in schools being forced to close and care homes running out of food

Supermarkets recorded rocketing demand and thousands of garages imposed £30 limits in a bid to ­conserve supplies.

Theatre producer Amy Smith witnessed three ugly incidents when she tried to fill up at South Mimms on the A1/M25. Amy, 35, of East London, said: “I tried to let an ambulance in by pulling to the side on the big roundabout going into the service station. A bloke thought I was trying to push in and got out of his car and started swearing at me.

“He was saying, ‘Everyone needs to queue, even f****** ambulances’. Then there was a punch-up between the pumps. The man who berated me was kicking off so another guy tried to calm him down and they had a fight.

‘Not enough to cover all my care calls’

“Then the man in front of me was holding everyone up. I asked if I could help but he got angry and said, ‘Are you trying to push in?’ Then he shoved me. I jumped in my car shaking and locked the doors.”

An ambulance had a collision with a car queuing for petrol as it tried to squeeze through a gridlocked road in ­Bromley, South London.

A witness said: “The ambulance stopped the siren, parked and went to talk to people in the car, exchanging details as they should by law. But presumably there remained a victim somewhere in a desperate state of urgent medical attention.”

London Ambulance Service said: “As a result of the incident, a different crew attended the patient.” Motorist Shane Peirson, 63, ran low on fuel as he made his way home to Suffolk from Ripon races in North Yorkshire. After trying garages around Retford, Norfolk, without luck, he drove to Markham Moor Services on the A1 but said both northbound and southbound were out of fuel.

He added: “I had hardly anything in the tank so I had to sleep in my car overnight. The pumps were open again next morning.”

Kent-based care worker Michelle Keutenius said yesterday: “At 8am I drove to every single petrol station in Folkestone. Not a single one had fuel and I don’t have enough to cover all my care calls.”

There is plenty of fuel in this country but it is in the wrong place for the motorist.

PRA’s chairman Brian Madderson

BP revealed around 30 per cent of its service stations — many on motorways — “do not currently have either of the main grades of fuel”. Brian Madderson, chairman of the Petrol Retailers Association — which represents around 5,500 independent outlets — said forecourts not already dry were “partly dry and running out soon”.

He said: “There is plenty of fuel in this country but it is in the wrong place for the motorist.”

A war of words blew up over who was to blame for the crisis — which threatens to roll on until Christmas, with supplies of turkeys and toys also at risk.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps defended plans to ship in an emergency army of foreign HGV drivers by issuing 5,000 temporary visas. He insisted there was “plenty of fuel” after checking with the six refineries and 47 storage centres.

But Mr Shapps told Times Radio the shortage of truckers could take “years to fully unwind”. However, he was confident his offer of 5,000 visas would ease the “100 to 200” shortfall of fuel tanker drivers he said was needed now.

He predicted queues would start to “resolve” themselves — partly due to the difficulty in stockpiling petrol. Tory MP Ben Everitt said: “Where garages have run out, it’s because of panic-buying.”

Where garages have run out, it’s because of panic-buying.

Tory MP Ben Everitt

But the British Chambers of Commerce said the Government’s plan was the equivalent of “throwing a thimble of water on a bonfire”, while the Road Haulage Association said it “barely scratches the surface”.

Freight industry group Logistics UK welcomed the move, but said the country needs about 90,000 HGV drivers — with supermarkets alone 15,000 short of the level needed to keep shelves stocked.

Hannah Essex, Co-Executive Director of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “Attempts to address the deficit of HGV drivers is a step forward, but this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the huge impact of the current ­labour shortages.”

Tensions flare at a BP garage in North London, Camden

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Tensions flare at a BP garage in North London, CamdenCredit: @CrimeLdn/Twitter
Driver fills up a fuel can in London

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Driver fills up a fuel can in LondonCredit: LNP
Panic-buying causes chaos on roads in Danbury, Essex

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Panic-buying causes chaos on roads in Danbury, EssexCredit: JOHN McLELLAN
Lorry delivering fuel is blocked in West London, Northolt

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Lorry delivering fuel is blocked in West London, NortholtCredit: i-Images
Ambulance crashes trying to get through traffic, Bromley

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Ambulance crashes trying to get through traffic, BromleyCredit: Millar Blane
Huge tailback at Cambridge Services on A14, Cambridgeshire

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Huge tailback at Cambridge Services on A14, CambridgeshireCredit: Terry Harris (THA)
Police officers jump queues on A10 in London, Hackney

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Police officers jump queues on A10 in London, HackneyCredit: Tom Bowles / Story Picture Agency

Truckers made to feel totally worthless

By Billy Diamond, 64, driver for 35 years, Worcs

LAST week, I clocked up 42 hours of ­driving, 63 hours total working time over five days, and 1,820 miles.

It’s not an easy job wielding a 44-ton vehicle, it requires a lot of focus. At the end of each shift, I pulled into a truck stop, cooked my dinner and slept in my cab.

In the pandemic, we were keyworkers. I never took any time off throughout, but it’s only now people are starting to realise just how essential we are.

We work extremely hard and we want to be treated with respect, with better conditions. But we’re made to feel worthless.

In Europe, drivers don’t have to pay to park overnight and when they go for fuel, they’re waved through as a priority, because they are viewed as an essential service.

Now we’re going to get another influx of foreign workers who will undercut our wages. I have no problem with someone wanting to make a better life for themselves, but they need to work for what we work for.

The stuffing has been knocked out of us drivers. I wouldn’t recommend this industry to anyone.

Brawl breaks out between moped drivers at London petrol station as tensions flare at the pumps during fuel chaos

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