Queues form at Norfolk petrol stations - despite reassurances over stock
- Credit: Tom Chapman
There are queues at petrol stations across Norfolk this evening, as fears grew over shortages caused by the national lorry driver crisis.
Despite advice from the government not to panic and for drivers to buy fuel “as normal”, drivers are still queueing to fill up their vehicles.
Meanwhile, bus operators across Norfolk have been reporting delays due to queues at petrol stations.
Some stations across the UK have been forced to close altogether — with BP and Tesco among the worst hit.
In Dereham, traffic was queued at Morrisons out of the petrol station and making it difficult to get into the store car park.
At the town's Lynn Hill BP garage there were long queues to get in and traffic was building on to London Road causing hold-ups as people tried to get into the town centre.
At both M&S and Tesco in Dereham, there were signs up saying there is no petrol available.
At the BP near Heacham, there were reports of a wait of 15 minutes or so for fuel amid queues of around a dozen cars and vans.
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Reportedly out of fuel is the Shell on Ipswich Road, Norwich, the Waitrose in Wymondham, the Sainsburys in Attleborough, the ESSO on the A11, the Sainsburys in King's Lynn, the BP on Mousehold Lane, and the Sainsburys in North Walsham.
The situation may have been made worse by the closure of the nearby Tesco filling station at Hunstanton for building work and holidaymakers worrying whether they had enough in the tank to get home.
Elsewhere business was brisk at the Jet on Plumstead Road East in Norwich, the city's Tesco Fiveways and Thickthorn Shell, but there were no repots of shortages.
There were queues for The Shell garage on the A11 – despite no fuel shortages being reported - at Besthorpe and the filling station at Tesco in Thetford was closed.
BP said a "handful" of its filling stations nationally are closed due to a lack of fuel available, while Esso owner ExxonMobil also said a "small number" of its Tesco Alliance petrol forecourts had been impacted.
Both First and Konectbus have reported issues on routes close to petrol stations in Watton, Norwich, Dereham and Sprowston.
First Norwich said its whole network was facing delays due to queues building up on the roads.
Konectbus said buses on routes 11, 11B, 4, and Straight8 had been facing delays of between 15 and 20 minutes.
Buses on route 11 are facing delays of around 20 minutes between Watton and Swaffham, while passengers on route 11B can expect delays due to "unusually heavy" traffic around Sprowston Tesco.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: "As of last night, five petrol stations on the BP network out of 12 or 13 hundred were affected.
"I'm meeting this morning with Tesco and I'm sure they'll give me the update for themselves. None of the other retailers said they had any closures.
"The others, Asda, Morrisons and other supermarkets, are saying they have no problems, as have other petrol companies."
To the BBC's Today programme Mr Shapps promised he would do what is needed to ensure that petrol gets to drivers.
"I'll move heaven and Earth to do anything that's required to make sure that lorries carry on moving our goods and services and petrol around the country," he said.
Rod McKenzie of the Road Haulage Association trade body said that the Government had allowed the driver shortage to get "gradually worse" in recent months.
"I don't think we are talking about absolutely no fuel or food or anything like that, people shouldn't panic buy food or fuel or anything else, that's not what this is about," he said. "This is about stock outs, it's about shortages, it's about a normal supply chain being disrupted."
So what's the real problem and what's being done about it?
Everything we eat, wear or consume comes to us by lorry.
If there aren't enough people to drive them, the complex supply chain which feeds our needs starts breaking down.
So while there are warehouses full of food and clothes and depots full of petrol and diesel, there aren't enough people to deliver them.
Hauliers' leaders say the UK is 100,000 drivers short of the number the industry needs.
Tens of thousands of foreign drivers have handed in their keys and gone home because of Brexit.
Many have quit the industry because of long hours and poor conditions.
The coronavirus pandemic has delayed HGV tests, slowing the flow of newly-qualified drivers coming through to replace them.
The government says it has simplified the testing process and re-deployed examiners to speed up the process.