Protest drivers facing court

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FOURTEEN LORRY drivers face prosecution by police over a protest action earlier this week that reduced thousands of cars to a crawl on Britain's motorways.

Essex police said that 60 lorries draped in banners drove at 5mph on some stretches of motorway, causing traffic jams up to eight miles long. Officers identified 14 trucks that police say were driving "without due care and consideration for other road users".

Acting Inspector Mick Green, from Brentwood Traffic Unit, said that the action was "totally disruptive", and the vehicles were a potential danger to other drivers.

The disruption was part of a nationwide protest by a newly formed action group that is campaigning against both the high cost of diesel in Britain and law changes that will allow European drivers to work in this country without permits.

Two of England's biggest cities were targeted - London and Birmingham. In the Midlands, more than a hundred lorries blocked two of the three M6 lanes between Staffordshire and Warwickshire.

However, the leader of the truckers said that the group would fight on, claiming that the police had intimidated them.

"We won't be put off by these bully-boy tactics," said Peter Knight, a Kent haulier who leads the protest group TransAction.

Mr Knight said more action was planned, and he added that his group would resort to "French-style" blockades to get noticed. "Nobody listens to what we say. The extra duty on diesel will lose me alone pounds 32,000 this year.

"If the lads get taken to court, the police will have to stop 1,000 tractors and cabs from turning up," added Mr Knight, whose protest group has 50 members.

The group fears that the lower cost of diesel on the Continent - as much as 19p cheaper than the 53p a litre paid for the fuel in Britain - coupled with the lifting of work restrictions on foreign hauliers, will see Continental firms flooding onto the nation's highways.

Trade organisations were sympathetic to the hauliers' arguments but not the methods employed. "This action will not get Government listening," said Steve Norris, the head of the Road Haulage Association.