Standstill Britain: Petrol Stations

Pressure increases as the nation's needle flickers towards empty
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The Independent Online

Violence flared yesterday as motorists queued to get petrol at filling stations still open for business.

Violence flared yesterday as motorists queued to get petrol at filling stations still open for business.

Queues of up to a mile were reported at some petrol stations, and the main oil companies reported that between half and 90 per cent of their outlets had run out by midday.BP said two-thirds of its 1,500 stations were out of fuel and TotalFinaElf said nearly all its outlets would be dry by the end of the day. Tesco said all its garages in England and Wales were shut.

A fight broke out at a Shell station in Leeds when the driver of a works van and a businessman reached for a pump at the same time. Christopher Priestley, a cleaner at the petrol station on Kirkstall Road, said: "The two men pulled up at a super unleaded pump. One was punched as they battled to get there first. It has become a tragic situation - fighting over petrol." Another employee added: "The bloke in the van just grabbed the pump and the other retaliated by throwing a punch."

Police in Bristol were called to a Texaco outlet to deal with a confrontation between two women motorists, and there were similar incidents in Southampton, Newcastle and Manchester.

In Greater Manchester, one garage operator shut his business after being abused and threatened with violence. Bob Wharton, 55, who runs an independent petrol station near Oldham, said: "I couldn't describe the abuse I've received ... I've closed up even though we've got petrol left. I don't want any more aggravation."

Evidence that motorists are willing to pay whatever is asked to get petrol emerged as a number of filling stations raised prices to £2.50 for a litre of diesel or lead replacement petrol.

Clare Barnett, manager of the Bridge Garage in Marlborough, Wiltshire, which was charging £11.37 for a gallon of diesel, said: "Most people drive in here on empty and are relieved to have found some fuel."

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