Price check: Fuel fears hit drivers in pocket

MOTORISTS were facing fuel misery and uncertainty today - with big price gaps opening up between different garages and a tanker driver strike threatening supplies.

Richard Cornwell

MOTORISTS were facing fuel misery and uncertainty today - with big price gaps opening up between different garages and a tanker driver strike threatening supplies.

The Evening Star's exclusive weekly survey showed those able to make it to the cheaper filling stations could be saving four to six pence per litre (up to 27p per gallon) on unleaded petrol.

Meanwhile, the AA urged people not to queue for fuel because even that can cost you.

The four-day Shell tanker driver strike over pay started at 6am but filling stations urged people not to panic-buy, saying stocks would last if drivers were reasonable.

A spokesman for the Shell Orwell station, near the Orwell Bridge on the A14, Nacton, said there were no queues so far today.

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He said: “We have had some queuing over the past couple of days but nothing extreme. Everyone seems to be buying as normal today and we have plenty of stocks at the moment.

At the BP Anzani garage in Trinity Avenue, Felixstowe, a spokesman said: “It's just a normal day - no-one is rushing for petrol, no-one is panic-buying. Let's hope it stays that way.”

The Esso forecourt on Nacton Road was closed briefly after an early-morning problem but was open again by breakfast-time and trading as normal.

Fuel has risen again this week. In Felixstowe, the Co-op owned Esso garage in High Road West has put diesel up three pence per litre (13p per gallon) in the past week to 131p per litre, and petrol up two pence (9p per gallon) to 117p.

The big question though is whether motorists will heed warnings not to panic buy in the light of the walk-out by 500 tanker drivers after talks between their Unite union and managers from two firms which deliver fuel to Shell garages broke down.

The strike will affect one in 10 of Britain's 9,500 filling stations.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown refused to rule out calling in the Army to keep fuel flowing, warning that the government was willing to do “everything we can” to stop petrol pumps running dry.

Union leaders warned fuel would start to run out “almost immediately” and all Shell's forecourts would be affected within 24 hours.

AA president Edmund King said queuing for half an hour could waste half a litre of fuel.

“When the Coryton refinery in Essex caught fire last autumn and disrupted 20 per cent of the UK's petrol and diesel supply, the petroleum industry kept the south east supplied for six weeks,” he said.

“There was no panic-buying because petrol stations that ran out of fuel were re-stocked either later on in the day or the following one. An industrial dispute affecting just one in 10 petrol stations is no reason to queue unnecessarily, and waste fuel and money.”

FASTFACTS: Fuel for Thought - reasons not to queue:-

- Drivers queuing at petrol stations for fear of shortages could collectively lose thousands of pounds and waste tonnes of fuel needlessly.

- AA research shows a warmed-up petrol car uses three-quarters of a litre of fuel every hour it sits stationary with its engine running.

- With UK petrol averaging 117.28p per litre, a queuing car loses 1.5p in wasted petrol every minute.

- One car sitting in a queue for 20 minutes adds 30p to its fuel bill, or another penny a litre for a half-tank top-up.

- 100 cars queuing 20 minutes waste £30 in fuel and deprive another driver of half a tank of fuel - 1,000 cars queuing 20 minutes waste £300 and force five cars to find their petrol elsewhere.

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