Fury at region's expensive petrol prices

By Graham DinesPolitical EditorPETROL prices in East Anglia have soared to the second highest in the UK and the fourth highest in Europe - and in some towns have crashed through the £4-a-gallon mark.

By Graham Dines

Political Editor

PETROL prices in East Anglia have soared to the second highest in the UK and the fourth highest in Europe - and in some towns have crashed through the £4-a-gallon mark.

Motoring organisations, hauliers and politicians have expressed their anger and one of the region's MPs is to write to Alan Johnson, the new Trade and Industry Secretary, asking him to have urgent talks with the petrol retailers.


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Prices have risen by 6p a litre in the first six months of the year, taking the monthly spend on petrol for a typical privately-owned car from £87.43 in January to £94.02 in June. In two-car households, this is an additional £13.18 hit on family expenditure a month.

Figures released by the AA Motoring Trust revealed the average price across Essex and Suffolk, including supermarkets and isolated rural garages, is 86.2p a litre - £3.92 a gallon - which is just marginally below top-charging Northern Ireland and 0.6p above the UK norm.

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In Europe, only motorists in Netherlands and Belgium pay more, while the typical price in the Republic of Ireland is 70.13p a litre, Greece 68.89p, Estonia 51.27p and Switzerland 66.39p.

Even countries with traditionally higher prices than the UK are now cheaper - it costs 78.41p in France and 80.81p in Germany - while in the USA motorists can fill up at 32.02p a litre.

East Anglia's motorists using diesel prices also get a raw deal, with the average across the region 90.2p a litre, 20p more than France - fuel costs cost £4 a gallon when the litre price reaches 87.9p.

Tim Yeo, Conservative MP for Suffolk South, wants Government action to stop East Anglia being penalised unfairly.

“I writing to Trade and Industry Secretary Alan Johnson asking him to have urgent talks with the petrol retailers,” he said.

“It seems extraordinary that East Anglia should suffer in this way. It is very damaging to the region's economy, adding to business costs and making it less likely that new jobs will be created,

“For private motorists, high fuel prices are a tax on living. Because of the lack of public transport, rural residents have little alternative to using their cars and they are being severely disadvantaged.”

Brooks Newmark, the Conservative MP for Braintree, said his concern was for elderly people in rural areas.

“If they use cars, their petrol is going up. If they use buses, fares will go up because of increased fuel costs.

“It's time to look at the annual increase in duty known as the escalator. It was introduced for sound environmental reasons, but now is the time to stop annual rises because petrol is becoming far too expensive.”

A spokesman for the AA Motorist Trust blamed East Anglia's distance from oil refineries for the higher petrol and diesel prices.

“Transport costs have to be taken into account. In addition, large swathes of the region are isolated rural areas where petrol filling stations provide a social need for a relatively small number of customers,” he added.

Steve Prince, a haulier from Braintree, said the rising oil price was creating an inflationary bubble.

“We keep having to add a fuel surcharge on our invoices to our customers and no doubt that's passed on all the way down the chain to the end product,” he added.

“It's the man in the street who will eventually pay. There's a huge bubble about to burst if the politicians are not careful. Fuel duty is twice what it should be.”

Jeanette Thurtle, regional organiser for the Federation of Small Businesses in East Anglia, said: “Increases in the cost of fuel places British businesses at a competitive disadvantage compared to those based abroad.

“This is particularly felt by British-based hauliers who see their prices dramatically undercut by foreign hauliers who have cheaper fuel costs.”

graham.dines@eadt.co.uk

ALTHOUGH fuel prices are higher in East Anglia's rural areas and market towns, there are wide variations even between garages a few hundred yards apart.

The BP garage in Spring Road, Ipswich, was selling yesterday a litre of unleaded petrol for 82.9p and diesel for 87.9p, while equivalent prices at BP Roundwood services in the town's Woodbridge Road were 85.9p and 89.9p.

Cheapest fuel in the region yesterday seemed to be at Asda in Colchester at 81.9p for petrol and 85.9p for diesel, while Sainsbury's in Hadleigh Road, Ipswich, had petrol on sale for 81.9p and diesel 86.9p.

At the other end of the scale was the Q8 garage in Charsfield, near Wickham Market, where diesel was costing 94.9p a litre and 89.9p for unleaded.

Petrol was also priced at 89.9p at Haynings in Framlingham and Church Garage in Snape.

The East Anglian average, calculated by the AA Motoring Trust, is 86.2p for petrol and 90.2p for diesel.

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