Fuel tax protests stall

HAULIERS in Felixstowe were today facing the prospect of tens of thousands of pounds of extra costs after a hike in fuel prices.But few truckers in the town took part in this morning's national protest against the price rise – 1.

HAULIERS in Felixstowe were today facing the prospect of tens of thousands of pounds of extra costs after a hike in fuel prices.

But few truckers in the town took part in this morning's national protest against the price rise – 1.28p per litre in fuel duty, just over 5p per gallon – with traffic moving swiftly in and around the port and haulage yards.

Drivers of cars and lorries had been urged to stop their vehicles at 8.30am for one minute, but many people did not know about the protest, organised by the People's Fuel Lobby.

Motoring organisations nationally reported a lack of enthusiasm for the protest.


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A spokesman for AA Roadwatch said: "We have monitored all the motorways and have seen no sign of any protest.

"The only sign of cars on hard shoulders was on the west-bound section of the M4 in west London - but that was due to a breakdown."

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Hauliers at Felixstowe said they did not know if they would take part in future protests and were waiting for the lead from their national organisations.

But firms were already counting the cost of the Treasury's duty rise – Deben Transport said it could mean an extra £600 per day on fuel costs.

Managing director Paul Dawson said the company used 70,000 litres of fuel a week and it would mean an extra £300 every time the vehicles were filled up.

"We are probably talking an extra £100,000 a year – money we have to find from somewhere, along with other rising costs," he said.

The company was tied in to contracts with customers and so could not pass on the rising costs immediately to them, and customers – such as supermarkets – were also trying to drive transport costs down to keep their prices low.

"What annoys me is that the government's excuse is that we need to improve the environment and reduce greenhouse gases and support other European states, but if they were serious about that we would see other measures, too," he said.

"Where is this money going? It's going into the Treasury's coffers to pay for Iraq and other issues.

"If the government was serious about the environment, people would probably understand more.

"If the government said next year there will not be 200,000 new cars on the road with ordinary petrol engines because 15 per cent of them will need to run on LPG, and we will also spend on other improvements to the environment, people would understand."

Despite the poor response, The People's Fuel Lobby, which had organised the protest, had claimed it had strong support and Val Smith, chairman of the Road Haulage Association, was due to deliver a letter of protest to Downing Street today.

Three years ago fuel protests organised by farmers and hauliers nearly brought the UK to a halt.

Oil refineries were picketed to prevent the delivery of supplies to petrol stations.

The country also saw a series of go-slow convoys on motorways, including one in Suffolk which caused chaos at Felixstowe port.

The rush for fuel sparked havoc at garages and 90 per cent ran dry before supplies eventually arrived.

n What do you think – is 5p a gallon too much extra to pay? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk

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