Handful of fuel protesters turnout

TODAY'S threatened fuel protests failed to halt any tankers heading out to forecourts bled dry by panic buying.Across the country just a handful of protesters turned out at refineries and fuel depots.

TODAY'S threatened fuel protests failed to halt any tankers heading out to forecourts bled dry by panic buying.

Across the country just a handful of protesters turned out at refineries and fuel depots.

In Ipswich two hauliers from Sudbury turned up outside the Vopak terminal in Landseer Road - but they were watched by two police officers.

Simon Rigo and Adrian Williams are both owner-drivers, and said the fuel increases of the last year had had a dramatic effect on their business.

Mr Rigo said: “My fuel bills have gone through the roof, but I can't increase what I charge to my customers. I'd get undercut by foreign hauliers who buy their fuel abroad before coming across here.”

The two hauliers said they would be making no attempt to stop lorries leaving the terminal - but if 30 or 40 people turn up the situation could change.

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And Mr Rigo accepted that the pumpside panic had helped them get their message across.

He said: “There's been all this panic buying which means that there is less fuel on the garage forecourts so it will hit home much sooner if lorries are stopped.”

But across the country, the protests failed to have any impact on supplies.

Hundreds of people were expected to turn out, but the biggest protest stretched to about a dozen outside the Shell refinery in Jarrow, south Tyneside.

Ray Holloway, from the Petrol Retailers Association, said the low turn-out was "really rather predictable".

"Motorists simply must accept that there is going to be no disruption to their petrol and diesel supplies,' he said.

"They will only exacerbate the problem by panic buying - it is self-inflicted misery.'

Andrew Spence, the farmer and haulier who was a prime mover in the 2000 protests with the People's Fuel Lobby, had arrived at Jarrow at 6am.

Mr Spence insisted he had never intended this to be a mass demonstration.

He said: “We didn't want a lot of people here, I would rather there was just a handful of us.”

In addition to the Jarrow protest, about 12 protesters gathered at the entrance to an oil terminal in Purfleet, Essex, 15 miles from the main Coryton refinery.

Holding placards saying Support British Hauliers and End Labour's War on the Motorist, they stood quietly and made no attempt to prevent tankers entering or leaving the depot.

Some key figures from the protests five years ago have said they would not take part this time.

David Handley, founder of Farmers For Action (FFA), explained that he did not believe demonstrations would make any difference in changing Government policy, although he backed Mr Spence.

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