Quarter of petrol stations still dry, retailers say

Quarter of petrol stations still dry, retailers say
‘Long queues’ set to continue at forecourts, industry figure warns

Britain’s ongoing fuel supply crisis shows no immediate signs of ending after an industry figure warned that a quarter of petrol stations are still running dry, with “long queues” set to continue.

Gordon Balmer, executive director of the Petrol Retail Association, said on Friday that less than half of forecourts have supplies of both petrol and diesel.

His comments came just hours after The Independent revealed Boris Johnson’s government has written to thousands of Germans residing in the UK asking them to drive lorries to assist with the heavy goods vehicle shortage which is causing the crisis.

The invitation has been extended to those who have no previous experience or history of driving lorries.

The PRA figures come from a survey of its members on Friday as the crisis enters its second week. Speaking after the numbers were published, Mr Balmer said the situation is beginning to improve “but far too slowly”.

“Whilst the situation is similar to recent days, there are signs it is improving but far too slowly,” he said.

“Independents, which total 65 per cent of the entire network, are not receiving enough deliveries of fuel compared with other sectors such as supermarkets.”

Mr Balmer added: “Until independents start getting frequent supplies, we will continue to see long queues at forecourts.”

The UK is currently in the grip of a supply chain crisis that has affected a wide range of products, from food to petrol supplies, although shortages of the latter have been exacerbated by panic buying.

Britain’s departure from the EU has been blamed as one of the factors contributing to the crisis, as the country experiences a shortage of heavy goods vehicle drivers.

Thousands of HGV drivers from Europe who left the UK after Brexit or during the pandemic are now unable to return as easily due to new immigration rules.

Addressing the crisis earlier this week, the prime minister said the fuel situation was beginning to stabilise as he urged consumers to fill up as they normally would.

But last night the PRA accused Mr Johnson of “gaslighting” the public over claims that the situation is under control.

“Some of our members haven’t had any fuel deliveries for nearly a week,” said Brian Madderson, PRA chairman.

“There’s been no easing off of the pressure from drivers wanting to refuel whenever they can, wherever they can. Trying to calm this down appears to be a monumental task at the moment.”

Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, laid the blame for the crisis squarely on the shoulders of Mr Johnson, who he claimed failed to prepare with his “whack-a-mole” approach to running the country.

In the letter sent to German residents, signed by transport minister Baroness Vere, the government asks them to “consider returning” to the HGV driving sector.

“There are fantastic HGV driving opportunities in the logistics industry and conditions of employment have been improving across the sector. As well as attractive pay rates, we are seeing more options for flexible working, fixed hours, fixed days, full time and part-time.”

German driving licences issued before 1999 include an entitlement to drive a small to medium-sized truck of up to 7.5 tonnes. It is understood that almost all Germans residing in the UK who hold such a licence have been sent the letter, almost none of whom have ever driven an HGV before.