Unleaded 'could hit £1.50 a litre'

MOTORISTS in Essex and Suffolk will be among the first to see unleaded petrol prices consistently break through the £5 a gallon mark, experts have warned.

MOTORISTS in Essex and Suffolk will be among the first to see unleaded petrol prices consistently break through the £5 a gallon mark, experts have warned.

Drivers in the region are forking out an average of £4.94 for a gallon of unleaded - higher than the national average - with some places already smashing the £5 barrier.

Now more misery is set to follow with experts predicting continuing price rises which could hit £1.50 a litre by September.

In Essex a litre of unleaded currently costs an average of 108.5p a litre, compared to 108.7p in Suffolk. Diesel is an average of 117.5p a litre in both counties, according to latest figures.

Only London is currently more expensive for fuel than East Anglia.

Louise Doherty, spokeswoman for the petrolprices.com website, said: “Those living in rural areas such as in Suffolk and north Essex will be hit hardest by the price rises. For those people public transport is either not an option or non-existent, and so cars are a necessity.

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“The government needs to recognise that road fuel poverty is becoming a serious problem for some people, and start to put further pressure on the oil-producing cartel Opec to increase supply so that pump prices fall.

“If they don't act, and if prices do continue to rise beyond £5 a gallon, which looks set to be in the next 3 months for unleaded in East Anglia, we may start to see people being forced to give up work because they can't afford to get there.”

Some of the most expensive forecourts in Suffolk are in Stowmarket, where a gallon of unleaded already costs £5.22 a gallon (114.9p a litre). Ipswich is the cheapest place to re-fuel in the county with Shell garages on London Road and Norwich Road selling at £4.72 a gallon (103.9p a litre).

The petrolprices.com website is now warning the £1.50 a litre mark - £6.82 a gallon - could be reached as soon as September.

Wil Gibson, chief executive of Suffolk ACRE, said: “We know people who live in rural areas are more reliant on cars to get to work and for social and recreational activities. Any increase in petrol prices hits them really hard. We also know a lot of people in Suffolk are on low pay so this could eat up quite a sizeable chunk of their disposable income so it has a double effect.

“The only way around it to safeguard rural communities is for the Government to think of a system of road pricing where they differentiate between rural roads and major trunk roads and charge accordingly. That could be one solution.”

He added: “Roughly 100,000 people are travelling more than 10km to work in Suffolk and of that 52% are from rural areas, so a lot of people are travelling long distances and will be affected. It is bad news every time there is an increase.”

Luke Bosdet, a spokesperson for the motoring organisation AA, said traditionally East Anglia always had high prices.

“For the majority of motorists, they are absorbing the extra cost into their budgets. But for the lower income driver who relies on their car, it's really beginning to bite. Not only is their fuel more expensive because their country retailers are not able to sell the volumes to make discounts but they also have to do more miles.”

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