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‘We’ll run out of fuel in hours’

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: March 29, 2012

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Westcountry filling stations could run out of fuel within hours of blockades by striking tanker drivers, experts say.

Petrol stations in the region have already reported panic buying of fuel after the Government told motorists to stockpile supplies ahead of industrial action.

Unions are yet to confirm whether the 80 drivers who supply fuel to Devon, Cornwall, Somerset and Dorset from a single terminal at Plymouth are to walk out over safety fears.

But business leaders say the fallout has already damaged tourism ahead of the Easter getaway, with holidaymakers reluctant to travel for fear they will be stranded.

Dave Springbett, regional officer for the Unite union in Plymouth, said garages in the four counties would “start drying up within hours”.

He predicted the big supermarkets “won’t take long to run out” and said smaller independents no longer had the cashflow to fill their tanks to the brim. “There are not the reserves on the ground anymore – if everybody went to fill up their tanks now we would start to run out.”

Tim Jones, chairman of the Devon and Cornwall Business Council, warned that “well-managed wildcat” strikes would inflict “maximum pain”.

Mr Jones revealed tourist bosses had reported bookings down and customers asking about “contingency plans”.

“People are nervous about what they will do if they get down here and can’t fill up with enough fuel to get back,” he added.

“We just cannot afford to have an economic shock like this – whatever we have got to do must be done – forget the rights and wrongs, we cannot have the disruption.”

Cabinet minister Francis Maude was criticised as reckless by road campaigners and firefighters yesterday for urging motorists to “fill up a jerry can”.

The Prime Minister convened a meeting of the “Cobra” crisis committee as plans were drawn up to draft in the military. The Ministry of Defence refused to confirm whether a naval fuel depot at Torpoint would be included in the emergency plan, which has seen soldiers trained to drive tankers.

David Cameron also recommended “contingency plans” as up to 2,000 Unite members threaten to halt deliveries in protest at their pay and conditions. The trade union said the dispute was not about wages but “minimum standards of health and safety”.

Mr Springbett blamed oil companies and big supermarkets for “cracking the whip” and said “pressure to meet unreachable targets” was “potential for disaster”.

“It is not about greed but drivers protecting themselves and the general public on the roads,” he added.

Transport analysts said the fuel network in the region was almost entirely supplied from the Cattedown terminal in Plymouth, and that panic buying could exhaust supplies “before strikes even start”.

Retailers in Devon reported a surge in demand on forecourts yesterday.

The isolated independent filling station at Clovelly Cross, near Bideford, which is more than 20 miles away from its nearest rival, said it had sold about 50 per cent more than usual.

Dorothy Bailey, who owns the garage with her husband, said: “I have noticed we have been getting big fill-ups – I think it’s holidaymakers.

“We are wondering how it is going to affect us and holding our breath – with us being out of the way we will not be the first priority for deliveries.”

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  • Phil_lip  |  March 30 2012, 11:49PM

    This was done at the end of the month, just as everyone gets paid so it brings into question what was this covering up? It wasn't the privatisation of the NHS, that was basically sold off last week, it isn't the pasty tax, that is another thing to get people to think about other things that this pretend fuel crisis has also covered up, as someone that doesn't read or watch the news that much anymore it would be interesting to find out what went through parliament in the last 3 days and got passed that they don't want us to know about.

  • sandyshaw  |  March 30 2012, 11:24PM

    what car have you got thetalkmon?

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  • flobberdob1  |  March 30 2012, 10:40PM

    There was a dung heap in the middle of the yard.

  • JMonners  |  March 30 2012, 7:45PM

    There cant be a strike until at least the 10th April, so why are you panic buying????? Idiots

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  • thetalkmon  |  March 30 2012, 7:14PM

    Poldice - But there was a panic so I don't know how you can tell how long the supermarkets will take to run out in normal conditions. Also competition on prices is a good thing and if other overpriced petrol stations close down then there can't have been much demand for them. My closest local petrol station is overpriced and would never go there for fuel. I'd rather go an extra 10 miles to get a cheaper price. Also my local petrol station only sells 95 Ron fuel my car has to have 98ron minimum, these are the kind of useless petrol stations that close down.

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  • poldice  |  March 30 2012, 4:38PM

    Well its passed the high water mark, the idiots all have full tanks of fuel and sales of jerrycans are set to crash... what a non event but it did expose one inconvienient truth. EVEN WITHOUT A PANIC SUPERMARKETS WILL RUN DRY IN 24 HOURS IF NO DELIVERIES ARE MADE BECAUSE THEY DO NOT HAVE A LOT OF STORAGE AND THEY HAVE CLOSED MOST OTHER FILLING STATIONS WITH THEIR PREDATORY PRICING POLICIES.

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  • sandyshaw  |  March 30 2012, 11:21AM

    Are you saying profiteering is wrong Gwynnhadu? Petrol stations are businesses they can charge what they like can't they. I would be charging £10 a litre. And people like you would have to do without if it's against your principles. The price will and should be whatever the highest pence per litre the market can pay for their fuel requirements. The situation would actually be a whole lot better if fuel stations at least triple their prices, when significant extra demand is noticed. This way there would be less queues and stocks would not run out.

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  • thetalkmon  |  March 30 2012, 10:01AM

    To all the people who are blaming the government if they told you to jump off a cliff would you do it ?. All these idiots are playing right into the hands of the unions who like to cause panick and chaos!

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  • Sparkie14  |  March 30 2012, 9:33AM

    Greedy people panic buying !!!!

  • DuporthBob  |  March 30 2012, 9:20AM

    "Westcountry filling stations could run out of fuel within hours of blockades by striking tanker drivers, experts say." I think we will run out long before then!

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