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Motorists queue at closed forecourts around Cambridge as fuel shortages cause chaos



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Chaos was the order of the day in Cambridge and the surrounding area today as fuel supplies dipped to dangerously low levels, with queues forming even outside fuel stations which were closed.

Drivers queue at a closed service station in Stapleford, April 8, 2022
Drivers queue at a closed service station in Stapleford, April 8, 2022

This new phenomenon appeared to be caused by drivers who either believed the forecourt was open, or were waiting for fuel to arrive at the forecourt. At one station in Stapleford, drivers were seen trying to fill up their cars at pumps that were empty using pumps that were weren’t dispensing any fuel – while the garage was closed. A long queue of cars suggested that others were waiting to have a go at filling up in the same hopelessly optimistic fashion too.

At 10am the Sainsbury garage at Coldhams Lane had a sign saying ‘No fuel available’: the forecourt was shut and the shop closed. However, at 3pm, following a delivery, there were queues for 200 yards backing on to Barnwell Road.

One driver gets lucky at Duxford service station
One driver gets lucky at Duxford service station

The situation now appears to be that garages take a delivery of fuel, then run out as motorists flock to the pumps. The garage then closes until the next fuel delivery arrives.

At Duxford service station, a BP garage just off the A505, the cashier explained at 3pm that stocks were running low.

“We have 4,000 litres of diesel left,” he said, “but the last 2,000 litres issludge so realistically, with 2,000 litres left, I expect it’ll run out in an hour or so.

“With petrol there’s 16,000 litres left, but the problem with petrol is that lorries take 500 or 600 litres to fill up, so we’re probably only good until teatime.

The message for motorists at Cherry Hinton Road BP garage
The message for motorists at Cherry Hinton Road BP garage

The reason?

“There’s a dispute at the depot but that’s all I can say.”

The price of fuel has also risen sharply this month, with further possible price increases a distinct possibility. The RAC said the rise in pump prices was driven by surging wholesale costs caused by the war in Ukraine.

Drivers were hit by the largest monthly spike in pump prices on record in March, despite a 5p per litre cut in fuel duty in the spring budget. The RAC said the average cost of a litre of diesel rose 22.1p per litre to 177.3p by the end of March. Petrol at UK forecourts rose by 11.6p to end the month at 163.3p. At Duxford service station on April 8 super unleaded petrol cost 177p a litre.

Barnwell Road queue for Sainsbury’s Coldhams Lane fuel station
Barnwell Road queue for Sainsbury’s Coldhams Lane fuel station

RAC fuel spokesman Simon Williams said: “March 2022 will go down in the history books as one of the worst months ever when it comes to pump prices.

“Without question, these figures show in the starkest possible terms just how much fuel prices are contributing to the cost-of-living crisis which will be affecting households up and down the country.

At Sainsbury’s Coldhams Lane there was no fuel in the morning, but following a delivery motorists were able to buy petrol and diesel by mid-afternoon
At Sainsbury’s Coldhams Lane there was no fuel in the morning, but following a delivery motorists were able to buy petrol and diesel by mid-afternoon

“Drivers might well be feeling aggrieved that the Chancellor’s ‘historic’ fuel duty cut announced in the spring statement just two weeks ago has done nothing to protect them from price increases.

“The fact pump prices have fallen so little reflects the fact that the cost to retailers of buying fuel had been going up ahead of the spring statement.

At the Cherry Hinton Road BP station the shop remains open but there is no fuel on sale. Pictures: Mike Scialom
At the Cherry Hinton Road BP station the shop remains open but there is no fuel on sale. Pictures: Mike Scialom

“Sadly this Easter, traditionally the biggest getaway time of the year on the roads, is shaping up to be the costliest on record for drivers and there’s very little they can do to escape the high cost of filling up.”

The previous biggest monthly increases in average fuel prices in records dating back to 2000 were October last year for petrol (7.4p per litre) and May 2008 for diesel (8.4p per litre).

But there is no precedent for the phenomenon of drivers filling up with imaginary fuel from empty pumps at garages which are closed.



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