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'Strike' panic at petrol pumps in Cumbria

Fears are mounting that petrol and diesel supplies will run short after filling stations reported a wave of panic-buying in the last 24 hours.

Petrol panic photo
Vehicles queuing at Hardwicke Circus this morning

One forecourt in Carlisle did double the usual volume of business yesterday as motorists filled up in anticipation of a possible strike by fuel-tanker drivers.

The News & Star visited every filling station in the city between 6.30am and 7.30am today. All had supplies of fuel but were busier than usual.

Queues were building up at the Tesco filling station at Rosehill even at 6.30am. Staff at the Esso forecourt in London Road said it had been unusually busy overnight.

Chris Toole, owner of the Mace filling station in James Street, said: “We’ve been busier than usual for the last three or four days because the Esso station up the road is closed for refurbishment.

“But yesterday we did twice what we would normally do. I’ve not heard of anyone running out but people are panic-buying. We’ll see what the weekend brings.”

Nationally, petrol sales were up 45 per cent yesterday.

At least three filling stations at Barrow and Ulverston in south Cumbria ran out of fuel. There were long queues at Morrison’s forecourt in Penrith this morning,

Michael Collin, a director of Hills, which operates 13 sites in Carlisle, Wigton and west Cumbria, said: “Where people panic and start to queue, others follow.

“That happened at Wigton yesterday although we didn’t run out. There isn’t any reason to panic. The BP terminal that supplies us has plenty in reserve.

“Many people have just been topping up their tanks, buying £20 worth or so. If people don’t panic, there isn’t a problem.”

There are signs that prices are starting to edge up. Most outlets in Carlisle were selling unleaded petrol for 142.9p-144.9p today, and diesel at 148.9p-149.9p.

Moves to avert a strike will be stepped up today. Meanwhile, Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude has apologised after suggesting drivers should fill up spare jerry cans with petrol and keep them in garages.

Another Government minister admitted Mr Maude had made a “mistake” after fire-safety experts warned of the dangers of storing petrol.

Transport Minister Mike Penning told BBC2’s Newsnight:“You can’t store that amount of petrol. It was a mistake by the Cabinet minister. He has apologised.”

However he insisted that Mr Maude was right to advise drivers to keep their petrol tanks full.

He said: “If they go on strike the country will have a problem. Let’s be prepared for that in case it happens.”

Conciliation service Acas is trying to convene talks between the Unite union and seven companies involved in the dispute over terms and conditions, and safety. Unite has not set any strike dates and has been stressing its willingness to negotiate.

Alan McGuckin, Unite regional officer for Cumbria, said: “We have been trying to get the employers in a room to talk about a minimum standards’ agreement for two years. They have ignored us.

“They have continued to fragment the industry, using sub-contractors and agency workers, and squeezing training and health and safety.”

Prime Minister David Cameron chaired a meeting of ministers to discuss contingency plans if a strike goes ahead.

Have your say

So walk or cycle, oh no wait, you might get killed by a speeding driver.

Posted by Sam on 5 April 2012 at 13:09

@Craig, your having a laugh, aren't you?

Posted by Brian on 4 April 2012 at 05:01

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