Emergency Services

Portrait of Britain besieged

Ambulance services yesterday called a halt to all non-emergency journeys and imposed speed limits on their fleets as emergency services across the country began to feel the effects of the fuel protests.

Ambulance services yesterday called a halt to all non-emergency journeys and imposed speed limits on their fleets as emergency services across the country began to feel the effects of the fuel protests.

Bosses at the Staffordshire Ambulance Service imposed a 55mph limit on drivers for non-essential journeys as part of a series of contingency plans to stop its vehicles running out of petrol if the crisis continues.

The service, which said it has 11 days' fuel left, was one of several in the areas worst affected by the blockades from Manchester to the South-west to start taking urgent measures to deal with possible chronic shortages.

Geoff Catling, Staffordshire's director of production, said: "We have contingency plans to ensure the effect of any fuel interruption does not cause any subsequent effect on the ability to deliver life-saving care."

The West Yorkshire Ambulance Service announced similar steps by cancelling all non-emergency journeys to and from hospitals across the region to save fuel. Kent Fire Brigade also said it would be restricting its fire engines to emergency calls after bosses ordered the cancellation of all community safety work.

Concerns about staff being unable to get into work for fear of running out of fuel prompted ambulance chiefs in Manchester to set up emergency accommodation for staff in nearby Bolton.

The Greater Manchester Ambulance Service said it had an agreement with oil companies to guarantee emergency cover by providing fuel deliveries during industrial action. John Williams, the human resources director, said: "One of our biggest concerns is the effect of the fuel crisis on our staff's ability to get into work."

The service said it was also postponing the driving section of its course for trainee paramedics in order to save fuel.

Protest leaders outside six of Britain's nine main refineries and petrol terminals said they would not hinder deliveries for emergency services.

Two tankers were allowed to leave the terminal at Avonmouth, near Bristol, to provide fuel for emergency services, while protesters at the Stanlow refinery in Cheshire said such deliveries would also be allowed out.

Brynle Williams, spokesman for the protesters in Stanlow, said: "We won't be moved but we won't endanger lives - essential supplies will be let out."

Police and fire services elsewhere reported few immediate problems, but police forces in the North-west, Yorkshire, Humberside and the Midlands were all gearing up to ensure vital deliveries.

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