Going to work, taxiing, driving an ambulance: fuel shortages and long lines at gas stations leave Britons scrambling to take trips.
In the northern English town of Belden, Jag Sanghera took the train to work instead of driving, saving the fuel needed to take his daughter to nursery school. In west London, Ladd Ibrahim, an Uber driver, tried at least seven gas stations, one open at 2 a.m. and waiting in line for 80 minutes, before waiting. Across the city, Nick Day said the private ambulance service he works for was forced to reduce the number of its vehicles on the road from six to four.
As the government tried to calm a worried nation on Monday, Gas stations across Britain continued to dry up and thousands of Britons found their lives in a mess.
Officials said there was no shortage of fuel and blamed panic buying. But analysts said the real cause of the chaos is a chronic shortage of truck drivers to deliver fuel to gas stations, and the government is said to be weighing whether to call in the military to help make deliveries. .
Whatever the reason, the supply of fuel Britons had been running out, lines of vehicles lined the streets near gas stations and some businesses that depended on fuel suddenly came to a standstill.
Dulu Uddin, owner of Bricklane Minicab, a taxi service in east London, said he usually employs 10 drivers, but only two have appeared since Sunday. He said others don’t want to drive too far from their homes because they are afraid of running out of fuel and not going home.
“The situation is really, really bad,” said Mr. Uddin, who said gas stations in his area were dry. “I would never have dreamed of something like this happening in England.”
The Petrol Retailers Association, which represents independent fuel retailers for 65 percent of the country’s gas stations, said members had reported that 50 percent to 90 percent of pumps were dry in some areas, Reuters reported.
On Monday, before ministers met to consider the crisis, the environment secretary, George Eustice, said there were no current plans to bring in the military – a move that may have reassured some Britons that the crisis was under control. Alarm others by outlining its scale.
“The reason for these current problems is that there is a panic buying phenomenon, and most importantly, people start buying petrol, as they normally would,” Mr Eustis told Sky News. Saying that there was enough supply in the country, even if there was. There was a problem with fuel delivery.
Critics portrayed the comments as an attempt to blame British citizens at least partly as a result of government policies, such as post-Brexit limits on immigration from EU countries.
And across Britain, assurances from the government did little to ease the frustration.
Mr Sanghera, 36, an actor in Balden, West Yorkshire, said he went to some stations on Sunday to fill up his tank and take his two-year-old daughter to her preschool in preparation for the week’s work. He went on saying that only diesel fuel is available.
“I felt bad, because I knew I was going to waste some petrol that could have brought my daughter to nursery and back, at least for today,” he said.
Mr. Sanghera’s tank was nearly empty on Monday, when a local Facebook community page alerted him that there was some gas in a nearby station.
But as a precaution, he took the train to work instead of driving the car, so the gas could be used “for my daughter’s nursery and back.”
Tanveer Minhas was greeted with chaotic scenes when he arrived at his local station in south London on Sunday.
“There was a traffic jam, at least two roads were lined up and also coming from the opposite direction,” Minhas said. On Monday the station was deserted and the pumps had yellow signs indicating they were no longer in use.
“I know there is a shortage of drivers, but two years ago when we had the coronavirus pandemic, everyone was panicking, and now it is again,” he said. “It’s ridiculous.”
Since Brexit took Britain out of the EU’s single economic zone, it has been difficult for firms to hire drivers from the bloc as independently as they did before the split from the continent. A long-running shortage of truck drivers has also been worsened by the pandemic, which has slowed the issuance of new licenses.
Ministers argue that the solution is for the industry to train more drivers and improve pay and conditions for hard work.
But it is a long-term prospect, and the government has been forced to reverse its policy and offer 5,000 temporary work visas to foreign truck drivers, and allow oil companies to collect information on supplies and coordinate deliveries. has been forced to suspend antitrust rules for
The use of military drivers will mark a significant increase, but industry experts suspect that disruption will end too quickly.
Brian Maderson, president of the Petrol Retailers Association, told the BBC that “training is underway in the background for military personnel,” but added that it would probably be useful to move supplies from point to point, rather than just loading and unloading. fuel, A skilled job that requires training.
“There is no one lever that is being pulled together by the government and industry that is going to solve this situation,” he said. “It’s a matter of little levers, each of which contributes a little bit to what’s going on.”
Paul Mumory, a spokesman for the Road Haulage Association, which represents road transport operators, said the military had about 2,000 qualified drivers and many would not have the certification currently required for civilian fuel tankers.
“We need to find out who they are, take them out of what they’re doing, take them down Sivy Street” – referring to the non-military world – “and connect them to the firms.”
“I suspect this is not something that can be tapped today,” Mr Mamari said.
Nor have industry groups yet been given details of the government’s plan to grant 5,000 short-term visas to foreign truck drivers – whether paperwork will be required or whether permits will be processed. The government said it would aim to process the visa within 15 days of applying.
Such visas would be valid for three months under the scheme, but Mr Mummer’s group thinks a six-month period would be more practical given the time required to process applications. “In terms of three months, how attractive will it be for drivers coming from overseas? Probably not much,” said Mr. Mamri.
There seems to be hope in the government and the fuel industry that, with their gas tanks full, Britons will begin to return to their normal purchasing patterns and that things will slowly return to normal.
Major fuel industry companies said in a joint statement on Monday, “As many cars now hold more fuel than usual, we expect demand to return to normal levels in the coming days, thereby reducing pressure on the fuel station forecourt.” Will be done.”
However, it is far from certain.
“We are 100 percent focused on our distribution operations, and deliveries are taking place across the country,” said Alan Davison, managing director of Hoyer Petrolog UK, a leading British fuel distributor.
“However, as long as people continue to buy or store fuel that they don’t need, it will be difficult to refill sites.”