Petrol crisis 'could last a month' despite Boris Johnson's insistence crisis is stabilising

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COLCHESTER ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 28: Petrol and diesel pumps are seen closed at a Shell service station on the A12 on September 28, 2021 in Colchester, England. A shortage of lorry drivers in the UK has affected a broad range of supply chains, including the distribution of petrol to service stations across the country. News that oil companies would need to ration fuel deliveries prompted some motorists to
Petrol and diesel pumps are seen closed at a Shell service station on the A12 in Colchester, Essex, as the fuel crisis continues. (Getty)

Despite Boris Johnson insisting the petrol crisis is “stabilising”, industry figures have warned that pumps could be empty for at least another month.

According to The Times, supplies at petrol stations across the country will need “weeks” to fully restock – even if drivers stop panic buying.

One source told the paper that they expected BP – the first company to ration petrol to motorists because of a shortage of HGV drivers – to continue to experience problems throughout next month.

On Tuesday the prime minister urged motorists to go about their business in the normal way, while plans were approved for 150 military drivers to begin training to help deliver petrol supplies.

But Johnson said he was making preparations to deal with potential problems with the supply chain until “Christmas and beyond”.

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - 2021/09/28: Cars queue at a reopened Shell petrol station in Islington as the fuel shortage continues. 
Many stations have run out of petrol due to a shortage of truck drivers linked to Brexit, along with panic buying. (Photo by Vuk Valcic/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Cars queue at a reopened Shell petrol station in Islington as the fuel shortage continues. (Getty)
A closed sign on the forecourt of a petrol station in Leeds. Picture date: Tuesday September 28, 2021. (Photo by Danny Lawson/PA Images via Getty Images)
A closed sign on the forecourt of a petrol station in Leeds after drivers rushed to the pumps to fill up. (Getty)

He said: “We now are starting to see the situation improve, we’re hearing from industry that supply is coming back onto the forecourt in the normal way.

“And I would just really urge everybody to just go about their business in the normal way and fill up in the normal way when you really need it and you know, things will start to improve.

“What we want to do is make sure that we have all the preparations necessary to get through to Christmas and beyond, not just in the supply in the petrol stations, but all parts of our supply chain.”

Despite the warnings of more problems for weeks, the head of a fuel supplier has predicted the UK is over the worst of the shortage at petrol pumps.

Watch: Shortages at the pumps – what happens next?

James Spencer, managing director at Portland Fuel, told the BBC: “I would say logically the worst is behind us. The original crisis – if you want to call it that – was caused by 25 to 30 petrol stations closing down near the south coast.

“It was never a particularly major crisis in the first place, obviously then there was the panic buying, sales at forecourts went up by 500% over the weekend.

“Lot of people have filled up their tanks now, so you might actually see a dip in demand and the replenishment of fuel at petrol stations is a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week job, so as we speak the petrol stations are being replenished.

“To a certain extent that hasn’t been helped by all the queues at the petrol stations because all of the tankers have not been able to get in.”

He added: “I would probably have to say there is a minor supply problem which is related to a shortage in tanker drivers. The shortage of tanker drivers is nothing like as acute as the shortage of general haulage drivers."

Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng also said the situation appeared to be easing.

“If we look at the deliveries of petrol they were matched yesterday by sales so that means the situation is stabilising. I think people are behaving quite responsibly,” he told the BBC.

Nevertheless, the impact of current shortages could hit the upcoming Tory conference in Manchester, due to start on 3 October.

Boris Johnson said the petrol crisis is 'stabilising'. (PA)
Boris Johnson said the petrol crisis is 'stabilising'. (PA)

Former Tory MP Nick de Bois suggested people may not be able to attend this year because of fuel shortages.

He tweeted that polls due out before the conference start “will be poor and set the tone” adding: “The challenge for PM will be an impression of gov competence and confidence – assuming delegates can get there.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer accused the government of reducing the country to “chaos” through its failure to deal with the fuel crisis.

Starmer said the haulage industry was “beyond frustrated” at the lack of a clear plan by ministers to alleviate the problems caused by the shortage of tanker drivers.

KNUTSFORD, UNITED KINGDOM - SEPTEMBER 28:  A sign declares no diesel available at a Tesco petrol station on September 28, 2021 in Knutsford, United Kingdom. The British government has temporarily exempted the oil industry from the Competition Act 1998, which will allow companies to share information and target fuel deliveries in parts of the country where retail supply is lowest.  The Royal Automobile Club (RAC) has said that fuel prices have also hit an eight year high due to the crisis with a 136.59p GBP average per litre of petrol. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
A sign declares that no diesel is available at a Tesco petrol station in Knutsford. (Getty)
A sign outside a BP petrol station in Birmingham informing people that there is no fuel. Picture date: Tuesday September 28, 2021. (Photo by Jacob King/PA Images via Getty Images)
A sign outside a BP petrol station in Birmingham informing people that there is no fuel.(Getty)

Johnson has rejected calls for healthcare staff and other workers to be given priority access to fuel, suggesting it was unnecessary given the easing of the situation.

The government has announced that it will be issuing 5,000 temporary visas to foreign lorry drivers to alleviate the shortages which led to the crisis – but dismissed demands for more overseas workers to be admitted.

“What I don’t think people in this country want to do is fix all our problems with uncontrolled immigration,” he said.

His comments came after transport secretary Grant Shapps acknowledged that Brexit, which cut off the supply of drivers from the EU, had been a “factor” in the crisis.

Watch: Shapps: Brexit 'will have been a factor' in fuel crisis

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