‘I daren’t go any distance’: how are people coping with UK fuel shortages?

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High fuel prices and shortages at the pumps continue to affect motorists, with those in rural areas with poor transport links hit particularly hard.

They come amid a wave of protests by environmental activists blockading fuel distribution terminals. A spokesperson for the UK Petroleum Industry Association sought to minimise the impact of the protests, describing the disruptions as “localised and short-term only”.

Three people speak about how fuel shortages and rising prices at the pumps are affecting them.

‘I’ve had to stop booking jobs because there’s no diesel’

View image in fullscreenRobin Hunter runs a car delivery service and says sometimes he can’t get hold of fuel. Photograph: Robin Hunter

Diesel shortages have forced 65-year-old Robin Hunter, who runs a national car delivery service in Lincolnshire, to stop booking jobs for the first time in more than two decades in the business. “I’ve never had to cancel work before because I can’t get hold of [fuel]. I’ve always managed to muddle through,” he says. He doesn’t want to risk booking jobs, saying he “doesn’t know when the situation will get better”: he visited five local supermarkets at the weekend trying to get diesel, to no avail.

“It was a bit of a job getting the last tank on Friday,” he says. “I daren’t go any distance – I was meant to go to Bedfordshire. With half a tank I’d get there, but would I get back? Or risk getting stuck in a compromising position on the side of the road? I may have a valuable car on board, which you can’t leave unattended.”

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Hunter has also noticed the price of diesel increasing. He paid £1.86 per litre for diesel last Friday, when he drove 300 miles moving four cars. “I managed to find fuel at the local garage in the next village to me. I tried supermarkets first because the price is more competitive,” he says, adding that he paid £1.49 at Sainsbury’s last month. “Diesel is used by working people – lorries, vans, agriculture. The issue highlights how many diesel vehicles there are on the road.”

‘There’s nothing available’

View image in fullscreenLiam Hargadon says any gains from the recent 5p fuel duty cut have been swiftly eroded. Photograph: Liam Hargadon

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Liam Hargadon, a 62-year-old part-time teacher living near Luton, has also noticed that finding diesel locally has become a challenge. “It’s very difficult to get diesel in Luton’,” he says, adding that the situation “seems to have gone crazy” in the past week. “A week or 10 days ago it was OK, then we [started] seeing tweets and Facebook posts from my local community saying there’s nothing available.”

Hargadon, who teaches three days a week in High Barnet, drives 24 miles to work as his village has poor transport links. “We get four buses a day in the village and if I were to use public transport it would take over two hours each way,” he says. “And that would be if all the transport links were working perfectly.”

In the past six months, he’s also been affected by considerable increases in diesel prices. He says he used to spend about £60 a month on diesel; now it’s £100. Diesel at his local petrol station fell to about £1.70 after the chancellor’s mini-budget in March, when Rishi Sunak cut fuel duty by 5p a litre. “Now it’s back up to £1.73, so I think the 5p/litre thing has been eroded,” he says.

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In order to maximise efficiency, the 62-year-old tries to combine tasks when using his car. “I try to ensure that each journey covers two or more tasks.” he says. Although he’s always tried to do this for environmental reasons, he’s become “very conscious” of it now. “I don’t go and fill up just for the sake of filling up – I may as well first go shopping and then fill up, to try and kill two or three birds with the same stone.”

‘You don’t want to have to choose between family and cost’

View image in fullscreenSamantha Button is having to visit her grandparents less often because of high fuel prices. Photograph: Samantha Button

High fuel prices mean Samantha Button, a 31-year-old housing officer in Yorkshire, is having to cut down her visits to her grandad, who is unwell. “Normally I visit my grandparents every weekend. He’s quite ill, so I try to make the most of the time we have. The 50-mile round trip didn’t used to be much of an issue before”, she says.

“You don’t want to have to choose between family and cost, but I can see soon I’m going to have to cut down how often I go.”

The cost of filling up started to be a problem last month, Button says. “It didn’t used to be an issue – now you fill up and it’s a lot harder to make it to payday,” she says.

“When you’ve got it in your account, you fill up and worry about cutting back later. Now it’s stark: you look at your bank balance and think there’s not much there. I’ve managed to make do by cutting back on food.”

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