Petrol increase hits Easter trips

Holiday travel: Increased fuel prices fail to keep 1.5m holidaymakers at home this weekend
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The Independent Online

As Britain geared up for the busy Easter weekend the stakes were raised again yesterday in the petrol price war.

Following increases announced throughout the industry this week one of the UK's largest petrol companies, Shell, said yesterday that it has "no immediate plans" to raise prices.

The increases were led by Tesco who put the cost of their petrol up 2p a litre on Monday. Other supermarket chains, including Sainsbury's and Safeway, have introduced similar rises. BP has also increased the cost of its petrol.

A Shell spokesman said: "The price of crude is at an all time high but we're not putting those rises through to the market. We've taken a commercial decision and our competitors have gone the other way."

Esso are basing their prices in individual stations on those of local competitors. June Harper, the company's planning and economics manager, said: "We do not set prices, nor do we undercut. Our aim is to be normally unbeatable by matching price levels set by competitors in local markets."

The rises mark the end of a price war between petrol companies which began at the start of this year. A BP spokesman said that prices have fallen by approximately 3p a litre since January. A spokesman for Tesco commented: "We expect these price increases to be reflected across the industry."

Meanwhile, over a million people will this weekend be heading abroad for Easter, with airports reporting an increased number taking long haul breaks to the Caribbean, America and the Far East.

The number of people leaving the country is expected to be around 1.5 million, 250,000 more than a year ago, according to the Association of British Travel Agents.

ABTA president, Colin Trigger, said: "The miserable winter weather has prompted many people to seek out the sun." A spokeswoman for Gatwick airport confirmed: "America and the Caribbean are popular destinations this Easter, as well as the more traditional Mediterranean sunspots. People seem to be venturing much further afield this year."

Gatwick is expecting to handle 380,000 passengers between today and Easter Monday - a 15 per cent increase compared to last year - with 78,000 people expected to fly on Sunday.

A further 500,000 are predicted to depart from Heathrow in the seven days from yesterday, while Manchester and Birmingham airports are expecting almost 130,000 passengers between them.

Eurostar, the Channel tunnel high-speed train company, is confident services from Waterloo to Paris and Brussels will be unaffected by two 24-hour strikes threatened by maintenance workers at its west London depot.

Ferry companies are predicting around 350,000 passengers. Stena expects at least 115,000 on its Dover-Calais run over the weekend; P&O European Ferries are predicting 135,000 passengers.

Those staying in the UK were warned to expect delays on the roads. A spokeswoman for AA Roadwatch said: "Last weekend the traffic was much busier than usual so we expect some people may have gone away already, but there will still be the same mass exodus today."

Motorists were urged to check their vehicles before travelling. "Last Easter we rescued 60,000 people who had broken down. We're urging people to help themselves by doing a few basic checks, such as oil, lights, battery level, tyres, electronics and of course fuel."