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Cars queue at petrol station in Birmingham
Up to 90% of British fuel stations ran dry across major English citiesImage: Jacob King/PA Wire/dpa/picture alliance
PoliticsUnited Kingdom

UK urges return to 'normal habits' amid fuel shortage

September 28, 2021

The government has urged Britons to "go about their business in the normal way" and resume typical buying habits. The Transport Secretary said that means motorists should stop filling up old water bottles with fuel.

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Tuesday the government was making all necessary preparations in the supply chain ahead of Christmas. Johnson blamed the apparent panic buying at the petrol pumps on a "slightly misleading" leak, which people responded to in a "totally understandable" way.

"What we want to do is make sure that we have all the preparations necessary to get through until Christmas and beyond, not just in supplying the petrol stations but all parts of our supply chain," Johnson told local broadcasters.

The prime minister said he sympathizes with those who have been unable to get fuel, calling it "frustrating and infuriating."

British drivers have been queueing for hours to fill their tanks while dozens of stations were closed with signs saying they had no petrol or diesel, Reuters reported.

The Petrol Retailers Association (PRA) said members had reported that 50% to 90% of pumps were dry in some areas.

A post-Brexit shortage of truck drivers, worsened by a halt on truck-driving-licence testing during coronavirus-related lockdowns — as well as people leaving the transport delivery industry — has struck a severe blow on supply chains.

Military troops prepare to start delivering fuel  — source 

The UK has put some military tanker drivers on standby to be deployed to deliver fuel if necessary.

Troops are set to start driving fuel lorries to petrol stations later this week after the Ministry of Defence approved an official request for assistance, Sky news reported, citing a defence source.

Some 150 military drivers, each teamed with another serviceperson, will be available to transport fuel around the UK, the senior defence source said.

Details about where they will be deployed have yet to be revealed.

Opposition calls for priority of key workers

Opposition Labour leader Keir Starmer accused the government on Tuesday of leading Britain "from crisis to crisis."

Starmer said ministers had failed to plan for a fuel crisis and that the government should prioritize key workers at the petrol pumps.

"The government has reduced the country to chaos as we track from crisis to crisis and the government is not gripping this," Starmer told BBC News. "What I would do is give priority to key workers this week."

Labour said it agreed with health and social care workers that they should have priority for fuel supplies. Johnson, however, said that "With the situation now stabilising and things getting better on the forecourts, the best thing is that we stabilise it in the normal way."

He called on people to "go about their business…and fill up in the normal way when you need it, and things will start to improve."

The situation reflects "shortages around the world," Johnson said, adding that the government has "got to make sure we have everything in place as the recovery continues."

UK fuel supply crisis

'No more water bottles at petrol stations'

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps pleaded with motorists on Tuesday to stop filling up old water bottles with fuel at gas stations.

"The sooner we all return to our normal buying habits, the quicker this gets resolved, and I do appeal to the public to do that. In particular, no more water bottles at petrol stations, it's dangerous and not helpful," Shapps told reporters.

The British government on Sunday announced a plan to issue temporary visas for 5,000 foreign truck drivers.

mvb/aw (Reuters, AP, AFP)

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