Fuel fever as people panic-buy petrol

Traffic chaos at Sainsbury's as motorists begin panic-buying fuel, and below, a member of staff directing traffic to the pumps'121348b.
Traffic chaos at Sainsbury's as motorists begin panic-buying fuel, and below, a member of staff directing traffic to the pumps'121348b.
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GRIDLOCK hit many of Scarborough’s petrol stations as panic-buying motorists packed the forecourts.

Long queues could be found at most of the town’s filling stations yesterday as drivers rushed to fill up tanks.

Traffic chaos at Sainsbury's as motorists begin panic - buying fuel.'121348d. Picture Kevin Allen.'29/03/12.

Traffic chaos at Sainsbury's as motorists begin panic - buying fuel.'121348d. Picture Kevin Allen.'29/03/12.

At Sainsbury’s, off Falsgrave Road, two marshals had to work throughout the day to manage the increase in traffic on the forecourt.

The panic buying comes after the Government advised motorists to top up their tanks amid fears of a tanker drivers’ strike.

Members of the Unite union, which supplies 90 per cent of the UK’s forecourts, voted to walk out over a dispute surrounding working conditions and pay.

Drivers in Scarborough took to the forecourts after the Prime Minister’s word of warning on Wednesday. However yesterday saw the queues reach new levels.

Shaun Bowness, who works at West End Garage, in Seamer Road, said: “We have been a lot busier without a doubt. It hasn’t stopped all day. We have seen a lot more vehicles with people filling right up.

“Deliveries are still coming through though so stock levels aren’t a problem.”

Over at Sainsbury’s 69-year-old Ian Anderson of Scalby was filling up. He said: “We’re going to Hunmanby tomorrow, then to see my father in Cramlington, just north of Newcastle, over the weekend so thought we’d get topped up with fuel just in case.”

Chris Hopkins, 34, a factory worker from Scarborough said; “I needed to fill up anyway as my fuel light was on and I’ve just got caught up in this. If there was a fuel strike I think I’d just use my bike.”

Also running low on fuel was Andrew Johns, 28, from Leeds but who now lives in Scarborough. He said: “I’m on empty so I had to come. I think people are just panicking. I’m not really that worried if there is a fuel strike, they seem to have plans in place to cover it if they do.

“When I get paid next week I might put a bit extra in the car though.”

The queues have proved to be an inconvenience not just for everyday drivers, but also those who rely on fuel for their business.

Taxi driver and former Scarborough councillor Phil McDonald said: “On a personal view I would be in favour of what the tank drivers are doing on the ground that is a health and safety issue.

“However if they go on strike and there are fuel shortages many taxi drivers will be affected as we are self employed. If there are fuel restrictions one would hope we would get priority in getting fuel as we are part of the transport infrastructure in Scarborough.

“If we run out of fuel and cannot work we can’t reclaim any money. This is coming at a time when taxi drivers are already being hit with high fuel prices as well as increases in licence fees.”

Should the strike go ahead plans are being put in place to ensure transport and emergency services aren’t affected.

Bob Rackley, operations director at EYMS which operates Scarborough’s buses, said: “We buy our fuel in bulk. We have got several days’ worth of fuel in storage in reserve so it’s not an immediate problem, but it might be later if there are prolonged strikes.

“If that was the case we would like to think we would be given priority for fuel.”

The message from Scarborough’s ambulance service was the same. David Williams, director of operations at Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust, said: “I would like to reassure members of the public that in the event of any fuel shortage the ambulance service will not be affected.

“We have plans in place to ensure that our staff can continue to respond to 999 calls and provide timely and high-quality care to patients across Yorkshire and the Humber.”

North Yorkshire Police reassured the public they will not be affected, while issuing a warning to motorists.

A spokeswoman for the force said: “The advice to motorists is not to panic buy fuel, however, we are aware that demand is increasing at some filling stations around the county.

“If motorists are queuing for fuel, please remember that you must not cause any obstruction to the carriageway or block entrances and exits while queuing. Please remain calm and remember that there is no fuel shortage at present.

“The force currently has robust contingency plans in place for North Yorkshire Police’s vehicle fleet and can reassure members of the public that the response to incidents and emergencies will not be affected.”

A date has not been set for a strike, and conciliation service Acas says it hopes to set up talks with Unite by Monday.

None of Scarborough’s petrol stations were reporting fuel shortages yesterday, with deliveries continuing as normal.