Queues for petrol are easing after unions announced there would be no strike over Easter, motoring organisations say. The government earlier changed its advice to drivers saying it was no longer urgent to top up petrol tanks, following two days of panic buying.
There have been some reports to the BBC of continuing shortages at a few petrol stations. But retail figures suggest demand for petrol waned from Thursday to Friday. The AA described ‘a rapidly improving picture at fuel stations’. A spokesman said: ‘The advice for drivers is to resume your normal buying patterns and to adhere to regulations on how much fuel you can carry and store.’
The RAC motoring group also said it was ‘business as usual. People should buy fuel as and when they need it – there is no shortage and panic buying should be avoided,’ a spokeswoman said.
Demand for fuel appeared to be dropping – with unleaded petrol sales down from 172% above normal on Thursday to 57% above normal on Friday, according to independent retailers’ group RMI Petrol. Diesel sales were down from 77% above normal on Thursday to 29% above normal on Friday.
However, the BBC has had reports on Saturday of some queues and shortages at petrol stations in Leeds, Tonbridge in Kent, Egham in Surrey, Bromley in south-east London, Finchampstead in Berkshire and St Albans in Hertfordshire. There are also reports of stations increasing fuel prices and limiting sales. In Guildford, Surrey, one petrol station is refusing to sell motorists any more than £25 worth of fuel.
Motoring experts now warn of a two to three-day backlog as haulers attempt to refuel petrol stations. A BP spokesperson said there had been a reduction in demand on the forecourts but it still had a few sites which had completely run out of stock and were awaiting deliveries. Meanwhile, several Labour MP’s have called for Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude to resign over comments he made advising storing petrol in jerrycans.
A York woman, who suffered severe burns while decanting petrol at home, remains critically ill in hospital.
Unite assistant general secretary Diana Holland said although no industrial action by fuel tanker drivers was planned over Easter – as it focused on next week’s talks with distribution companies through the reconciliation service Acas – this did not mean the union had backed down.
Acas said unions and fuel bosses would not meet until after Monday but said it was ‘pleased’ that Unite was ready to start substantive talks as soon as possible. An Acas spokesperson said: “We are meeting all of the employers involved in the dispute on Monday to complete our exploratory talks with them. ‘We hope that more formal talks involving both Unite and the employers will start as soon as possible after Monday.’
[Source: BBC Online]