Ministers promise end in sight for fuel crisis as local forecourt thanks community
Government officials have issued reassurances that the worst of the fuel crisis, which has prompted panic buying across the country over the past week, looks to be over.
Late last week, oil firm BP warned that it would have to temporarily close a handful of its petrol stations due to a lack of lorry drivers, prompting widespread fears that supplies could run out.
Within days, queues of traffic snaking up towards forecourts, and motorists desperately filling up jerry cans, had become a familiar sight as people tried to prepare themselves for a shortage that never came.
Yesterday, Simon Clarke, chief secretary to the Treasury, reassured people that the crisis is now under control.
He told Sky News’ Kay Burley: “The crisis is now absolutely something which is back under control.
“More fuel is now being delivered to petrol stations than sold and we’re confident the commercial market can resolve this.”
While south Norfolk was no exception to the panicked scenes witnessed across the country, Simon Lawrence, operations director at Budgens petrol station in London Road, Harleston, thanked the community for their relative calm.
He also echoed the Government’s position, adding that demand had now peaked.
“We are definitely through the worst of it,” said Mr Lawrence.
“It’s been an extremely difficult few days and the supply chain has been stretched, but not broken.
“We have been able to keep supply coming down from the refineries into customers’ tanks but it’s been extremely hard.
“The volume increased by about 50 per cent. With that sort of increase, you are always going to see the supply chain stretched. The system will take a little time to recover but it’s going to cope.”
Mr Lawrence added that south Norfolk had managed to weather the storm much better than larger urban areas, many of which had been hit hard as people rushed to fill up.
“The pictures you have seen in London; it hasn’t been like that for us,” he said.
“We have got a fantastic team in Harleston, who are part of the community.
“We have had a few difficulties, but it has all been dealt with in great humour and courtesy.
“And the staff here just kept going. There may have been an hour or two where we were out, but we were able to keep going.
“With help from the community, we were able to ride out a very large wave.”
The crisis caused particular problems for emergency responders, many of whom found themselves unable to get sufficient fuel to attend blue light calls.
There are now growing calls for key workers, such as health and social care staff, to receive priority access to available fuel after some reported not being able to get to work due to the supply issues.
Jennifer Ward, a student paramedic from Long Stratton, saw her post go viral after urging motorists to be thoughtful when filling up their tanks.
In her post, which gained almost 200,000 shares on Facebook, the 21-year-old spoke of how she and her colleagues had been unable to get any petrol.
She said: “Imagine having to go to five different petrol stations to get diesel for your ambulance; do people forget we need it to actually attend an emergency?
“We’re already struggling enough as a service without the added pressure of not knowing where our next stop for fuel will be. Be kind, be caring, be thoughtful.”
The crisis has been caused by a shortage of HGV drivers, meaning firms have been unable to transport petrol from refineries to the forecourts.
As many as 150 Army drivers are now on standby to drive tankers if needed, while 4,000 provisional HGV licence applications are being processed as the Government tries to get more trucks on the road, with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer telling Boris Johnson to “get a grip”.