Motorists face another 'week or so' of fuel shortages, warns minister
Minister admits motorists face WEEKS of queues at filling stations which are running out of fuel faster than they can be resupplied – as reserve petrol tankers are pictured stuck in a storage yard due to lack of drivers
- Policing minister Kit Malthouse tells BBC R4 motorists could endure ‘another week or so’ of fuel shortages
- Follows Petrol Retailers Association warning that stations were running out of fuel faster than resupplying
- It comes as the eighth day of panic buying crisis rumbled on, with shortages in Kent, Reading and London
- Approximately 40 reserve petrol tankers continue to sit in storage in Cambridgeshire, amid driver shortages
Motorists could face another ‘week or so’ of chaos at fuel stations a Government minister has warned as reserve petrol tankers have been unable to leave a storage yard over a continuing shortage of drivers.
Policing minister Kit Malthouse said there needs to be an ‘improvement’ in the situation in the coming days and that Boris Johnson stands ready to review matters if there is any deterioration.
Approximately 40 reserve petrol tankers continue to sit in storage in Fenstanton, Cambridgeshire on Friday despite the ongoing fuel crisis due to widespread driver shortages across the haulier industry.
And pictures taken in Kent, Reading and London on Friday show panic buying continuing, while bus routes were subject to delays in the early hours of the morning as huge queues continue to form at forecourts across much of the country.
Average fuel levels at UK petrol stations were at 20 per cent for the third day running yesterday – less than half the normal figure of 43 per cent – but Whitehall analysis showed a drastically varying picture by region.
Mr Malthouse’s downbeat assessment contrasted sharply with comments by other ministers in recent days that the situation would swiftly return to normal as drivers resumed their usual buying patterns.
It follows a warning by the Petrol Retailers Association that filling stations were running out of fuel faster than they could be resupplied, with one in four forecourts having run dry.
Policing minister Kit Malthouse said the fuel situation was stabilising and that motorists could see a return to normality within a ‘week or so’
READING, BERKSHIRE – A Hoyer fuel delivery refills the pumps at an Esso in Emmer Green, Reading as motorists continue to queue on Friday
ASHFORD, KENT – Motorists queue for fuel at an Esso petrol station on Friday, October 1
CLAPHAM, SOUTH LONDON – Motorists line the streets in front of a petrol station in the early hours of Friday morning as the eighth day of fuel chaos continued
FERRING, WEST SUSSEX – An Asda petrol station is closed off to the public over fuel shortages
Traffic chaos continues in Ashford, Kent as motorists block roads and junctions in their desperate bid for fuel
Bus routes were subject to delays in the early hours of Friday morning as huge queues continue to form at forecourts across much of the country
Mr Malthouse told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: ‘We are still seeing strong demand in parts of the country around fuel. The distribution mechanism is trying to respond to this unprecedented demand.
‘My latest briefing is that the situation is stabilising, that we are seeing more forecourts with a greater supply of fuel and hopefully that, as demand and supply come better into balance over the next few days, week or so, that we will see a return to normality.
‘I think if things started to deteriorate further, obviously the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Energy, whose responsibility this is, will have to review the situation.’
Mr Malthouse also insisted there was no ‘shortage of fuel in the UK’, rather ‘only so many tankers, only so many drivers’ to distribute supplies across the country.
His comments came just 24 hours after another minister – Treasury Chief Secretary Simon Clarke – claimed the situation was ‘absolutely back under control’.
Around 40 reserve petrol tankers, worth an estimated £4 million, are parked in the storage depot in Fenstanton, whilst forecourts across the UK remain closed due to a shortage of truck drivers.
Just a handful of the white tankers, which are stored at the depot in case of a national emergency, have been seen leaving so far.
The fuel crisis has caused huge queues outside some petrol stations, whilst other forecourts have run out of supplies and closed completely.
Brian Madderson, chairman of the Petrol Retailers Association, yesterday explained: ‘There’s been no easing off of the pressure from drivers wanting to refuel whenever they can, wherever they can.
‘Trying to calm this down appears to be a monumental task at the moment.’
Earlier this week Mr Johnson ruled out granting priority access to fuel to healthcare staff on the grounds that it was unnecessary as the situation was ‘stabilising’.
However Mr Malthouse said there were ‘pockets’ of the country where there were still problems – with London and the South East reported to be among the hardest hit.
He said efforts were being made to balance out the situation with areas where supplies were strong, but he indicated they were being constrained by the numbers of tankers available.
‘What we need to see is a stabilisation and improvement over the next few days,’ he said.
‘Obviously there only so many tankers that can be used to get this fuel around. They are trying their best to get around as fast as possible.
‘There is co-ordination now across the country looking at where there are pockets of supply problems and demand strength and trying to bring the two into balance.’
On Wednesday, Business Secretary Kwasi announced the Government was sending out its reserve tanker fleet – driven by civilian drivers – to support the distribution efforts.
However it is yet to deploy the 150 military drivers who have been on standby since the start of the week to assist with the operation.
Figures from the Department for Transport have shown there is a backlog of more than 56,000 applications for vocational driving licences, including HGV and bus permits, waiting to be processed.
Ministers have blamed the pandemic, which led to the cancellation last year of tens of thousands of tests.
Mr Malthouse’s comments raise the prospect that Mr Johnson will go into the Conservatives’ annual party conference – which begins in Manchester at the weekend – with the issue still hanging over the Government.
The crisis began after reports that a shortage of tanker drivers had led a number of BP stations to close, which triggered a wave of panic buying which has yet to fully subside.
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