More Suffolk petrol stations closed as PM plans action
- Credit: Paul Geater
An increasing number of petrol stations across Suffolk are being forced to close due to a lack of fuel, as the government considers temporary measures to tackle the shortage of HGV drivers causing the crisis.
Petrol stations in Ipswich as well as some on the A12 and A140 are reportedly running short of fuel, as queues of people attempting to fill up have been seen elsewhere across the county.
One councillor warned that the shortage of fuel could prevent care staff from getting to work.
Beccy Hopfensperger, Suffolk County Council cabinet member for adult care, said: "Please please stop panic-buying fuel, we have carers who are unable to provide urgent essential care to our most vulnerable residents because they can not get fuel or they are waiting in queues for hours."
Meanwhile, Prema Fairburn-Dorai of the Suffolk Association of Independent Care Providers said she had received lots of calls from concerned care workers.
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“We got so many calls from our carers who were all worried because they couldn’t fill up," she said.
“In my company, we prepared for the worst but we haven't actually had to use our contingency plan yet.
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"It’s patchy, some stations had shut, but others were open.
She added: "Some are prioritising health workers if they can show their work IDs, which is helpful.”
A spokeswoman for Suffolk police said queues to get on to petrol station forecourts were causing fewer traffic problems today compared to yesterday.
But in Essex police have received more than 100 calls from people stuck in traffic caused by the crisis.
Chief Supt Jenny Barnett said: "Thank you to the majority of you for buying fuel they need it, and being calm and considerate.
"We've had more than 100 calls in the last 24 hours from people stuck in traffic.
"999 & 101 need to kept for emergencies and reporting info about crime"
Petrol station bosses in Suffolk have called for calm.
Krishnapillai Prunthavan, manager at the Gunton Service Station and Gulf Garage in Lowestoft, said: "If people panic, we can't do anything.
"We now have a tanker delivering 37,000 litres, we are not closed and we will not be charging extra.
"But all we say is that the public need to help us as well - that is the only issue we have at the moment."
It comes after a Downing Street spokesman insisted on Friday night that any measures introduced to help ease the crisis would be “very strictly time-limited” amid reports that Boris Johnson had allowed ministers to relax UK immigration rules to allow more foreign drivers into the country.
And although Downing Street would not confirm whether any decisions had been made, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps earlier promised to “move heaven and earth” to get the situation solved.
The government is reportedly planning to lift visa restrictions for foreign lorry drivers to help ease the supply issues.
The issues getting petrol to forecourts have been linked to a shortage of around 90,000 lorry drivers.
Esso, BP and Tesco forecourts have been affected by challenges getting petrol deliveries.
BP said that around 20 of its 1,200 petrol forecourts were closed due to a lack of available fuel, with between 50 and 100 sites affected by the loss of at least one grade of fuel.
A “small number” of Tesco refilling stations have also been impacted, said Esso owner ExxonMobil, which runs the sites.
And on Friday the EG Group, which has around 400 petrol stations in the UK, said it was imposing a £30 limit on customers “due to the current unprecedented customer demand for fuel”.
A Downing Street spokesman said: “We have ample fuel stocks in this country and the public should be reassured there are no shortages.
“But like countries around the world we are suffering from a temporary Covid-related shortage of drivers needed to move supplies around the country.
“We’re looking at temporary measures to avoid any immediate problems, but any measures we introduce will be very strictly time-limited.
“We are moving to a high-wage, high-skilled economy and businesses will need to adapt with more investment in recruitment and training to provide long-term resilience."
Despite this, Edmund King, the president of the AA said panic-buying rather than supply chain issues is driving the shortage of fuel.
He said the problem should pass in a matter of days if drivers just stick to filling up when they need it, adding “there is plenty of fuel at source”.
Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Mr King said shortage of lorry drivers had only been a “localised problem” earlier in the week.
“We were in discussions with Government ministers last night and we talked to the major fuel companies, and we can reiterate there is not a problem with supply at the source,” Mr King said.
“Earlier in the week, there were some problems with the supply chain, as we know, due to a shortage of some lorry drivers, but that was only a localised problem.”
Mr King said the shortage had been exacerbated by “people going out and filling up when they really don’t need to”.
“If you think about it, 30 million cars out there, if they’ve all got half a tank (and) if they all rush out to fill up the rest of the tank and the tank is about 60 litres, that will put a strain on the system,” he said.
Mr King said the issues were unlikely to last because the supply chain is not being disrupted by ongoing problems such as industrial action.
“The good news is you can only really fill up once – you’ve got to use the fuel, so this should be a short-term thing,” he said.
“It’s not like the fuel crises in the past when the supplier was hit by strikes, etc.
“So, once people have filled up, they won’t travel more than they normally travel, so this strain on the system should ease up in the next few days.”
While fuel shortages are unlikely to last, Mr King said a shortage of lorry and HGV drivers was an ongoing issue.
“The market is stretched, so I think that is a broader issue that is affecting the supply chain, not just the petrol and diesel, but retail as well.”