Huge queues for VAT-free petrol

DRIVERS were quick to take advantage of cheap fuel offered at a petrol station in protest at an increase in Government duty.

Richard Smith

DRIVERS were quick to take advantage of cheap fuel offered at a petrol station in protest at an increase in Government duty.

Chris Woodruff, who runs the Jet service station at Darsham, near Saxmundham, slashed his prices in response to the 2p-per-litre rise.

He was immediately rewarded by grateful customers yesterday who queued on the forecourt of the station, on the southbound carriageway of the A12.

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There was so much demand that Mr Woodruff sold more petrol than expected and he had to revert to the normal prices after lunch.

He opened at 6.15am with a special price of 79.9p a litre and diesel at 93.9p a litre. These were the cheapest prices in the country and, according to the AA, the national average was 91.5p a litre with diesel at 106.7p a litre.

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Mr Woodruff allocated 10,000 litres for the one-off price, but he ultimately sold more than 11,000 litres at the cheap price because he did not want to disappoint drivers who were waiting on the forecourt when he passed the 10,000 litre target.

Petrol sales at Darsham fluctuate seasonally and normally he would sell about 6,000 litres on a day in winter.

Chancellor Alastair Darling had announced in his pre-budget report that a permanent 2p duty rise in petrol would come into effect yesterday.

Mr Woodruff was determined to make a stand about the high amount of duty paid in Britain compared with other countries and he sold his petrol at O% VAT for several hours.

Now he is considering whether to take further action to highlight his campaign.

Mr Woodruff, whose father Peter started the garage in 1973, said: “People were very pleased with what I was doing and the response was incredible.

“Many of them shook my hand in thanks, others took pictures of the prices on their mobile phones and sent texts to their friends, and one van driver said three months ago it cost him £120 to fill up and today it was only £85.

“I want to thank everyone for their support today and although it has cost me a lot of money it is worth it if this starts something. I wanted to do something extreme to generate interest.”

He added: “In rural Suffolk we don't have a network of public transport so whenever the Government puts up fuel duty it hits hard.”

Mr Woodruff said he had forfeited about £1,000 in lost profit.

A Treasury spokesman said: “The proposed 2p per litre increase in fuel duty was deferred earlier this year to support motorists during a period of record oil prices.

“However, pump prices have now fallen by over 20p per litre since July and the reduction in VAT to 15% will mean fuel pump prices will remain broadly unchanged after the duty increase.”

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