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Do you remember the petrol price protests from 20 years ago?

PUBLISHED: 06:30 15 September 2020 | UPDATED: 10:13 15 September 2020

Queues for petrol at Sainsbury's in Norwich. Pic: Adrian Judd.

Queues for petrol at Sainsbury's in Norwich. Pic: Adrian Judd.

It was petrol, not a pandemic, making the headlines 20 years ago, as price protests over fuel came close to bringing Britain to a standstill.

Queues at Thickthorn as the protest convoy negotiates the roundabout and turns back south on the A11. 
Photo: Bill SmithQueues at Thickthorn as the protest convoy negotiates the roundabout and turns back south on the A11. Photo: Bill Smith

It was September 7, 2000, when the first lorry drivers began to blockade oil refineries in protest at another hike in the cost of fuel.

There was anger that the price of petrol was going up by two pence per litre from 78p to 80p. These days, it’s closer to £1.15 per litre.

Lorry drivers and farmers manned barricades at fuel depots across the country, heaping pressure on the government - and Norfolk felt the impact.

Demonstrators blockaded Wymondham Oil Storage, in Silfield Road and at the Q8 storage depot in King’s Lynn, with prime minister Tony Blair making a direct appeal to protesters to lift their pickets – warning the fuel shortage was putting lives in danger.

EN coverage of the fuel crisis in Sept 2000. Picture: Archant LibraryEN coverage of the fuel crisis in Sept 2000. Picture: Archant Library

For a week, the country was on the brink of crisis point, with petrol stations empty as fuel tankers were unable to make deliveries.

Long queues built up at the likes of Sainsbury’s in Queens Road, Norwich, as the pumps slowed to a trickle - and then ran dry.

The NHS was put on red alert, with health chiefs in East Anglia warning key staff were finding it increasingly difficult to get to work.

Bus passengers faced the prospect of skeleton services, as dwindling supplies meant First Eastern Counties was down to just six days’ worth of fuel, so was considering limiting which buses could run.

EN coverage of the fuel crisis in Sept 2000. Picture: Archant LibraryEN coverage of the fuel crisis in Sept 2000. Picture: Archant Library

On Wednesday, September 13, two tanker-loads of emergency fuel arrived in Norfolk, with supplies reserved for key workers in essential public services, including nurses, teachers, doctors, home carers and police officers.

It meant 10 filling stations across Norfolk received fuel designated for essential users only. Identity cards were issued and a list of essential users distributed to the petrol station forecourts, so they could get fuel.

But other drivers anxiously wondered when they would be able to fill up again, while there was panic buying of bread and milk in supermarkets.

However, even as police broke up the blockades, the farmers and lorry drivers retained the support of the public.

The Q8 petrol station in Hall Road Norwich was only offering lead replacement petrol. Pic: Adrian Judd.The Q8 petrol station in Hall Road Norwich was only offering lead replacement petrol. Pic: Adrian Judd.

A resounding 78pc of Evening News readers who rang our phone-in said they supported the demonstrations.

After the blockades ended, there continued to be fresh panics at the pumps. A week after petrol started to be delivered again, rumours of fresh action prompted panic buying to, once again, sweep the forecourts.

• What are your memories of those protests? Let us know in the comments section below.

A motorist managed to get petrol at the BP at Fiveways in Norwich. Pic: Steve Adams.A motorist managed to get petrol at the BP at Fiveways in Norwich. Pic: Steve Adams.

EDP coverage of the fuel crisis in Sept 2000. Picture: Archant LibraryEDP coverage of the fuel crisis in Sept 2000. Picture: Archant Library

EDP coverage of the fuel crisis in Sept 2000. Picture: Archant LibraryEDP coverage of the fuel crisis in Sept 2000. Picture: Archant Library

EDP coverage of the fuel crisis in Sept 2000. Picture: Archant LibraryEDP coverage of the fuel crisis in Sept 2000. Picture: Archant Library

Insp Neil Ferguson addresses protesting farmers before they set off in convoy from a field at Suton near Attleborough. 
Photo: Bill SmithInsp Neil Ferguson addresses protesting farmers before they set off in convoy from a field at Suton near Attleborough. Photo: Bill Smith

Truckers blockade Wymondham Oil Storage. Pic: Keith Whitmore.Truckers blockade Wymondham Oil Storage. Pic: Keith Whitmore.


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