Blockades rumours spark petrol panic buying

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The Independent Online

Motorists have been urged not to panic buy after rumours of fresh blockades sparked huge queues at petrol stations across Britain.

Motorists have been urged not to panic buy after rumours of fresh blockades sparked huge queues at petrol stations across Britain.

The Association of Chief Police Officers said the rush to fill up was based on "utterly unfounded rumours", while the Petrol Retailers Association warned the situation could become "extremely serious".

Queues up to an hour long were reported in a repeat of nationwide scenes from a week ago.

The rumours, which started in South Wales, spread to other parts of the country including south west England and the Home Counties, leading to fears that fuel will be in short supply again.

The Petrol Retailers Association said there was no evidence of any action taking place at any fuel terminal.

"If these stories are circulating and are causing panic buying it is extremely serious and could lead to a re-emergence of the problems of last week.

"This obviously would cause a severe problem for the emergency services and we would urge consumers not to panic buy."

The Transport and General Workers Union said none of its tanker driver members was taking official industrial action and there were no reports of any unofficial strikes.

Tankers were continuing to drive out of Avonmouth Docks, near Bristol, with no sign of any problems.

A Texaco garage in Cardiff reported panic buying.

"People are telling us that blockades are going ahead and they've come to fill up. They think that something is going on," an attendant said.

Supermarkets in Cardiff said customers were not panic buying food but petrol.

Senior duty manager Matthew Bennett at a Sainsbury's Colchester Avenue petrol station said: "There is a queue of cars waiting for petrol which stretches back a mile and a half.

"The queues started about an hour ago and we have been trying to inform customers that the blockade is a malicious hoax."

Managers have enforced a £10 petrol limit to get the queue moving faster.

But huge queues built up at service stations across the city following rumours that drivers were about to strike.

Queues outside the Esso station just a few hundred yards from the dock gate quickly reached a quarter-of-a-mile and caused traffic congestion in the area.

A Texaco garage in Cardiff also reported panic buying.

"People are telling us that blockades are going ahead and they've come to fill up. They think that something is going on," an attendant said.

Supermarkets in the city said customers were not panic buying food, but petrol.

Senior duty manager Matthew Bennett at Sainsbury's Colchester Avenue petrol station said: "There is a queue of cars waiting for petrol which stretches back a mile and a half."

Managers have enforced a £10 petrol limit to get the queue moving faster.

Meanwhile a spokesman for Cheshire police also appealed to motorists to stop panic-buying fuel in response to what he called "malicious rumours" about new protests.

He said: "Cheshire police have a patrol at Stanlow (distribution centre). There is no picket there and we have no knowledge of pickets anywhere in the county."

He added that officers were looking into Internet sites on the fuel crisis to see whether they had been used to publicise the latest panic.

The developments followed a rejection by Chancellor Gordon Brown of the 60-day deadline set by fuel protesters.

He said in an interview with the Times: "We are not going to make decisions on the basis of deadlines such as this. We have a process that works - the Pre-Budget Report and then the Budget."

Mr Brown said the Government was listening to farmers and hauliers but was acting now to prevent a repeat of last week's events.

Fuel protesters today formed new group to lobby the Government over petrol prices.

Geoff O'Connell, a spokesman for the fuel demonstrators, said more than 50 farmers and hauliers from across the country met in Altrincham, Greater Manchester, to set up The People's Fuel Lobby.

He said the group was looking to negotiate with Prime Minister Tony Blair and Chancellor Gordon Brown to bring down the price of petrol and diesel.

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