Region sees panic buying at the pumps

PANIC buying has set in at the region's petrol pumps - bringing with it long queues, flared tempers and ever-dwindling supplies of fuel.Many motorists yesterday ignored pleas for calm and rushed out to fill up their tanks ahead of the expected fuel protests today.

PANIC buying has set in at the region's petrol pumps - bringing with it long queues, flared tempers and ever-dwindling supplies of fuel.

Many motorists yesterday ignored pleas for calm and rushed out to fill up their tanks ahead of the expected fuel protests today. .

Garage forecourts were crammed with vehicles with queues stretching onto nearby roads, clogging up traffic.

In some areas of the county supplies of fuel ran out and motorists were restricted to only £20 of petrol.


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People were also seen on forecourts filling up petrol cans as well as their vehicles in an attempt to stockpile fuel before the protests.

Unofficial protests at the escalating price of fuel are expected across the country, with oil refineries targeted and “go-slows” expected on major routes.

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One protestor posted a message on the fuel lobby website Less Tax On Fuel looking for events in and around Ipswich.

The message said: “We are a bunch of peaceful protestors fed up with this Government's persecution of the motorist.

“So, if you know of any events or would like help in the organisation of an event please drop us a line.”

Essex hauliers also posted messages saying they were going to take part in protests on the M25.

A spokesperson for Halesworth Filling Station, in Saxons Way, said there had been panic buying since Monday and customers' tempers had flared a couple of times.

She added: “We are limiting them to £20 per transaction, except for the emergency services.

“We will run out of supplies by tonight (Tuesday). We were supposed to have a tanker in but it is not going to turn up.”

Steve Winskill , duty manager of Ipswich's Tesco at the Copdock Interchange, said: “I was in at seven and the forecourt was full and backed out onto the ring road that goes around the store.

“Some people are filling up everyday, if their work takes them away they have got to make sure their cars are filled up.”

Suzanne Gunn, manager of the BP petrol station on the A143 Bury Rd, in Stanton, near Bury St. Edmunds, said: “People are panicky. Those that would usually put in £5 to £10 are putting in £30 to £40.

“One lady bought all our petrol cans, about four to five, and filled them all up.”

Simon Barrett, managing director of Barrett-Lee service station in Sudbury, took the unusual step of closing his forecourt and shop at 10.30am after a traffic logjam on the adjacent roundabout brought the surrounding road system to a standstill.

“It was becoming absolutely dangerous so we took the decision to close,” he told the EADT. “We have not lost out on trade, which has seen us sell an amount of fuel in 24 hours what we would normally sell in four days.”

Police were even called to the Suffolk market town to help ease traffic queues around Sudbury petrol stations.

In Essex, the Esso garage in Ipswich Road in Colchester fell victim to people filling up their cars ahead of the protests and ran out of fuel to sell.

Nearby at the Highwood's Tesco, queues snaked around the roundabout and into the store's car park, blocking access.

An Essex Police spokeswoman said: “Essex Police are urging motorists not to panic buy.

“The only fuel distribution problems in the area over the last few days have been caused by panic buying, not as a result of any shortage of supplies.”

Louisa Perry, regional policy manager for the Freight Transport Association, which is not supporting any direct action, said any rise in petrol prices hit the region's local economy hard.

She added: “The last thing we want happening is protests on the A14. It is a key trade route and we need to keep goods moving and vehicles moving at all times. As happened in 2000, things grounded to a halt very quickly.”

The UK Petroleum Industry Association (UKPIA), which represents firms such as Shell, BP, Esso and Total, said there was no need for motorists to panic.

Chris Hunt, UKPIA's director-general, said tankers delivering fuel to the forecourts had been increased by 10%-15%.

He said: “We have had a week's-worth of demand in one day. I believe folks are still queuing up, but there is absolutely no need to do so.”

Chris Fox, President of Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), added:

“We have no reason to believe supplies will be disrupted, but in any event, chief constables around the country are currently making arrangements to deal with any incidents.”

In September 2000, national fuel protests - which included a blockade at an oil terminal in Cliff Quay, Ipswich - brought the country to its knees.

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