Confusion over who has priority as fuel begins to trickle in

Service Stations
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The Independent Online

The Government issued a list of 2,500 priority service stations last night that oil companies must supply to ensure that hospitals, pharmacies and public utilities can maintain essential services.

The Government issued a list of 2,500 priority service stations last night that oil companies must supply to ensure that hospitals, pharmacies and public utilities can maintain essential services.

The list was drawn up after consultations with hauliers and oil companies to ensure that public services receive fuel and that drivers in essential occupations have access to petrol.

But there was confusion about how the emergency plan, drawn up by the Home Office and the Department of Trade and Industry, would work.

Petrol retailers raised doubts over whether enough tankers had left oil depots to replenish all the stations on the list.

The oil companies also called for clarification over who was eligible to receive the new supplies amid reports that members of the public were being allowed to fill up.

Meanwhile, the number of petrol stations not on the list but still selling fuel of any kind dwindled to almost zero as the main retailers confirmed their networks had run dry.

Shell said its 1,100 petrol stations were now empty. Esso, which runs 1,500 forecourts, said just 200 still had any supplies. Texaco and TotalElfFina said they expected their pumps to be empty by last night.

The stations on the designated list were chosen for their proximity to hospitals, gas, water and electricity companies and food distribution firms.

Ministers also wanted to ensure that companies supplying farms with animal feed and pharmaceutical firms that ship vital drugs to chemists also had access to fuel.

As the first tankers filled up the pumps, doctors and nurses were given priority at many stations, and the public were turned away at most.

But at one station in Rainham, Essex, where fuel was briefly available to all, there waschaos as news of a delivery spread. One driver said: "It was completely chaotic and no one was giving an inch. There was a real sense of tension."

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