Average petrol prices hit an all-time high of 120p a litre yesterday, surpassing the previous peak of 119.7p in July 2008.
The unwelcome new record came a few days after the Government raised fuel duty by 1p a litre. A further 1p rise is due in the autumn, with a 0.76p increase planned for next January.
The previous peak came when oil prices were at a record $147 (£96) per barrel, but the current price is closer to $86 (£56). The RAC said the increase had been caused by a combination of factors, but mainly by the steady weakening of the pound.
An increase in the refining costs of petrol, leading to a steady increase in the wholesale price since the beginning of the year, is also to blame. Wholesale prices have now passed the $800-a-ton mark for the first time since October 2008. Tax rises since December 2008 have also added an estimated 10p to the cost of a litre of fuel.
"This is a dark day for motorists," said the RAC motoring strategist Adrian Tink. "Petrol prices have been rising steadily over the past year and have now reached the inevitable record high. However, this is only the average. In some areas, motorists will be paying close to £6 a gallon (131.9p a litre).
"With the election campaign now in full swing, Britain's hard-pressed motorists will be keen to hear what the political parties have to say about the escalating petrol prices. This is a key issue for Britain's 32 million motorists, who are watching their bank accounts [being] drained every time they fill up."
The AA said petrol was now just over 10p a litre more than at the beginning of the year, adding more than £5 to the cost of filling a 50-litre tank. A two-car family will likely have seen their monthly petrol costs rise from £233.32 to £254.60. With the pound 13 per cent weaker now than 18 months ago, it is estimated that the pump price of petrol will rise another 1p.
The AA's Paul Watters said: "For many drivers, today's record price underlines what they already know – the cost of petrol is becoming increasingly unsustainable.
"We can only hope that the 6 May election produces a result that strengthens the pound and puts downward pressure on pump prices."Reuse content