Motorists urged to 'Dump the Pump'

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The Independent Online

Motorists across the country were urged to "dump the pump" today in protest against high petrol prices.

Motorists across the country were urged to "dump the pump" today in protest against high petrol prices.

The nationwide day of action is the first in what organisers hope will become a weekly demonstration against high levels of tax charged on fuel in the UK.

Lorry drivers were planning a blockade in Dover and at least one garage owner has said he will not be opening today.

The protest follows the first round in a petrol price war that has seen some supermarkets lower the price of petrol by around 5p to below 80p a litre. Petrol giants BP and Esso have also lowered prices.

But co-ordinator of the Boycott the Pumps campaign, Garry Russell, 39, from Chingford, Essex, warned: "If we sit back and do nothing then before too long we will have the £5 gallon.

"If we paid as much tax on certain items as we do on petrol then a first-class stamp would cost £1.13, a cinema ticket would be nearly £22 and a loaf of bread would be £1.58.

"I want to see forecourts become no-go areas on Mondays. This is very much an election issue now, with people blaming the Government for the high prices."

He called on drivers not to fill up at petrol stations and to boycott forecourts on each Monday from now on.

Lorry drivers were planning to spark traffic chaos by blockading Dover in a linked protest.

Hundreds of hauliers are expected to form a "rolling roadblock" along the M20 from Ashford to Dover, according to the Hauliers and Farmers Association, which is organising the blockade.

They will convene at Ashford truck stop at 6am and set off for Dover an hour later, driving through the town at 5mph.

Spokesman Tim Smith said British haulage firms faced ruin because European drivers were able to undercut them by using cheap fuel.

He said: "We are staging this blockade to highlight the fact that we are paying double the fuel duty of the French.

"European truck drivers are doing our work and we can't compete. East European drivers' operating costs can be £800 a week less than ours and no one on Earth can compete with that."

He called on the Government to reduce fuel prices and road tax in line with other European countries.

Mr Smith apologised to drivers for the inconvenience but said: "We need to highlight the problem of British haulage firms going to the wall."

Shailesh Parekh, 35, who runs a filling station under licence from Texaco in Solihull, West Midlands, has agreed not to open his garage today.

He said exorbitant petrol taxes were crippling motorists and retailers alike and he was determined to make a symbolic stand.

Mr Parekh said: "It may sound an odd thing for someone in my position to do but the Government is doing nothing for the customers and the retailer. I am determined to make a point."

However, the day of action has been criticised by transport and environmental groups.

Both the RAC and the Freight Transport Association expressed reservations about the boycott, as did Friends of the Earth and the Council for the Protection of Rural England.