Some queues - but business largely as usual at Norfolk's petrol stations

fuel shortage

Drivers queue for fuel at a BP filling station - Credit: Chris Bishop

Cars began queueing up at some forecourts almost as soon as the government urged drivers to "buy fuel as normal".

However, in general it was business as usual at the majority of petrol stations visited on Friday by EDP reporters.

At the BP at Heacham there was a wait of 15 minutes or so for fuel amid a queue of around a dozen or so cars and vans.

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.

fuel shortage

Drivers queue for fuel at a filling station on the A149 at Heacham - Credit: Chris Bishop

One worker said despite the surge in demand the pumps were unlikely to run dry because a tanker delivery had topped up supplies.

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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 shortages.

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.

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Stations across Norfolk were busier than normal but none were closed because they had run out.

Queues building at the Tesco Express Fiveways petrol station in Norwich. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Queues building at the Tesco Express Fiveways petrol station in Norwich. - Credit: Denise Bradley

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.

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