Almost a third of BP’s petrol stations in the UK have run out of fuel, the oil giant has said, after motorists continued to panic buy en masse over the weekend.
This is despite continued pleas by ministers and police that motorists should “continue as normal”, as well as accusations that the entire fuel crisis has been sparked by drivers unnecessarily stocking up on fuel – not a shortage of supplies.
A row erupted on Sunday between the government and the Road Haulage Association after transport secretary Grant Shapps claimed the fuel crisis was a “manufactured situation” caused by a media leak by the RHA, from a meeting at which concerns were raised by BP about supply problems.
The RHA denied the allegation, which it described as a “disgraceful attack”, and claimed ministers were trying to divert attention away from their handling of the shortage of HGV drivers which many have blamed on Brexit.
In a statement, BP, which operates 1,200 sites in Britain, said: “With the intense demand seen over the past two days, we estimate that around 30 per cent of sites in this network do not currently have either of the main grades of fuel.”
“We are working to resupply as rapidly as possible,” the company added.
Queues of vehicles formed at petrol stations for a third day running on Sunday as motorists waited, some for hours, to fill up with fuel after oil firms reported a lack of drivers was causing transport problems from refineries to forecourts.
Images shared on social media showed dozens of sites closed, pumps ‘out of order’ and long lines of cars waiting to fill up their cars and additional canisters.
There were also reports of police having to jump the queue to get “vital fuel” and an ambulance crashing into cars queuing for petrol in Bromley, southeast London.
On Friday, trade bodies warned it would be the “most vulnerable” members of society – such as elderly people and children seeking medical treatment – who would “suffer the most” from petrol panic buying.
Anglo-Dutch oil group Shell said warned it had seen increased demand across its UK fuel stations since Friday, leading to a shortage of supplies of some grades of fuel.
“We are replenishing these quickly, usually within 24 hours,” it said in a statement.
Mr Shapps, who has repeatedly shifted the blame of reduced petrol supplies away from the government and onto panic buying and the hauliers’ association, said on Sunday: “There’s plenty of fuel, there’s no shortage of the fuel within the country.”
“So the most important thing is actually that people carry on as they normally would and fill up their cars when they normally would, then you won’t have queues and you won’t have shortages at the pump either,” he told Sky News.
Calling out the Road Haulage Association, the transport secretary added: “They’re desperate to have more European drivers undercutting British salaries.”
However, the British public does not appear to agree. An Opinium poll published in the Observer newspaper today said that 67 per cent of voters believe the government has handled the HGV driver crisis badly.
Meanwhile, a majority of 68 per cent said that Brexit was partly to blame.