Panic stations: Motorists turned away from forecourts as fuel supplies run dry amid two-hour queues

Tailbacks and fraying tempers at petrol pumps across the country, as ministers’ calls go unheeded and drivers race to fill up their tanks

Petrol Price, Energy İndustry

9/24/2021 11:56:00 PM

⛽ 'It was almost inevitable. No sooner had motorists been told there was no need to panic after BP and Esso announced they were closing some petrol stations, long queues began to form at fuel forecourts'

Tailbacks and fraying tempers at petrol pumps across the country, as ministers’ calls go unheeded and drivers race to fill up their tanks

From the south coast to the Midlands and the North, ministers’ words went unheeded, as drivers raced to fill up their tanks.In Brighton, a tailback formed outside the Asda superstore at the city’s marina, with hundreds of cars stretching back along the approach road from early Friday morning.

There were similar queues in the capital, where Khaled El Okla, 38, a plumber and gas engineer from Loughton, had to wait two hours to fill up his Nissan at an Esso garage in Highgate, north London.“If there’s no petrol I can’t go to work, feed my family and pay my mortgage. So what can I do?” he said. “The Government is supposed to sort it out, because it’s affecting the whole country.

“I think they should get the Army to drive the trucks - that’s the best solution. I don’t want to stock petrol at my house because it’s dangerous and I’ve got two kids. They need to help us.”‘It’s been a nightmare’ As many as 15 cars could be seen queuing up along the road outside the station, while many of the pumps displayed signs which read “Sorry out of use”. A member of staff said the morning rush had been the busiest he had seen in two years of working there.

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In Richmond, south west London, staff at a Sainsbury’s superstore were forced to turn away hundreds of drivers after running out of petrol.Clare McGowan, 58, said: “They were allowing only diesel vehicles on to the forecourt because they had no more petrol. They’d run out this morning. I was lucky, as the garage I normally use was already shut because they must have exhausted their supplies.”

By contrast, it was diesel they had run out of at Ashford International BP in Kent.Joe Wilson, an Asda delivery driver, said: “I’m just trying to fill up my work van but it’s been a nightmare. I only found out this morning that there were loads of queues. I’ve been driving for maybe three years and never seen anything as manic as this.”

Experts are now predicting that fuel prices could jump by as much as 3p per litre in response to the queuing.Motorway services prioritised Howard Cox, founder of the FairFuelUK campaign, said drivers would feel the pinch in short order. He predicted that a three per cent rise would push up the cost of refilling a 55-litre tank to more than £75.

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“Unfortunately, we are already seeing queues outside garages with rattled drivers determined to make sure their vehicles are filled to the brim. There will have to be rationing causing more conflict at the pumps,” he said.BP has said it has two-thirds of normal forecourt stock levels required for smooth operations and plans to provide 80 per cent of normal services to nine in 10 forecourts. Motorway services are expected to be prioritised.

The company added that it was cutting deliveries at 90 per cent of its petrol stations in an attempt to ration the fuel it had in reserve.ExxonMobil, the oil firm behind Esso, said that forecourts it operated at some Tesco supermarkets had been affected.

Ayo Adesina, a software engineer from Hackney, filmed fellow drivers trying to fill up at a garage in Romford, Essex, where the store manager had received a delivery at 5am on Friday.In the video, Mr Adesina can be heard saying “Just been told by the store manager ‘We have about one hour left before we run out’.”

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It was a similar picture further north.Jason Sheldon, 50, a music photographer from Walsall, was alerted by his wife on Friday morning to the situation at their local Tesco, where each of the 12 pumps had half a dozen cars queuing.He told The Telegraph: “After she rang I got down there quickly. Some people had to wait about half an hour. I have to get petrol. I’ve got a Paloma Faith concert in Birmingham on Saturday I need to get to for work. That’s not panic buying, that’s just a necessity.”

Motorists are starting to panic buy - and jostle for fuel In Nottingham, retired gardener Colin Ellis, 72, found his local Co-op had run out of fuel.“I’m no longer working so it’s not a necessity for me,” he said. “But it’s pretty annoying and the quarter tank I’ve got left will soon run out, what with nipping down to the shops and that.”

Many said that messaging by industry and government figures designed to avoid panic buying had had precisely the opposite effect.Katie Carpani, 43, a university tutor, decided she had better fill up after seeing long lines forming outside each of the several garages she drove past on Friday morning.

“It was only because I saw others buying fuel that I decided I had to as well,” she said. “I know that’s ridiculous, especially as I work from home, but that’s what happens. In the end I had to queue for 45 minutes. It was chaos.”There was tension on some forecourts as people jostled for what fuel was available.

In Sandbach, Cheshire, petrol station staff reported that some motorists had come to blows, such was the panic.Russell Jones, a computer coder, posted on Twitter: “Nice bit of panic buying at my local petrol station. Queuing down the road, blocking the motorway junction. One member of staff told me there’d been a fight over petrol an hour earlier. What a mess.”

Sophie Docherty, 31, a mobile hairdresser from Camden, north London, said: “It’s causing a lot of arguments - people were shouting at us for queuing. We’ve tried five stations and this is the first one we could get into because the queues were so long.”

Ms Docherty has a disabled daughter and said she needed to fill up to ensure she wasn’t forced to rely on public transport, as well as to be able to continue working.She said: “I find it annoying more than anything, because people are panic buying and their cars are just going to sit on their driveway. If we don’t panic and keep our heads, then there will be enough petrol for everyone. Something needs to be done. It’s not just fuel; supermarkets are suffering too and shelves are empty.”

Industry reassurance only fuels concern As industry efforts to reassure motorists continued, the Petrol Retailers Association warned that - with Britain facing an estimated shortfall of more than 100,000 lorry drivers - drivers should prepare for ongoing problems.

The Road Haulage Association said the problem would not be fixed quickly, saying: “We are looking at trucker shortage for at least another year or so, even if the Government tackles the shortage urgently, which they haven’t done until now.”None of that was any comfort to Tracy Blake, 38, from Dorset, who was forced to sit in a 30-minute queue at an Esso garage in Bournemouth, simply so she could drive her son to university in York.

“It has nothing to do with a fuel shortage. It’s a driver shortage caused by Brexit, Covid-19 and government inaction over the last few years,” she said. “The Government kept saying it would be fine, and anyone who said there would be problems were accused of scaremongering. Well, here we are.”

Read more: The Telegraph »

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