Lonely vigil: one man and his dog who demonstrated outside oil depot

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Indy Politics

The haulier was the only person to turn up outside an oil depot in Hemel Hempstead, unless you count his pet dog, a Jack Russell cross called Tramp.

As the pair began a vigil outside the Buncefield Fuel Distribution Depot at 6am, three tankers left to fill up petrol stations.

In the next 20 minutes, 16 tankers left without a hitch, underlining the fact that this year's fuel protest drama was not going to turn into a crisis.

Mr Pallett, 50, who was taking the morning off from his job as a lorry driver, said that his fuel costs each year had reached £30,000. Five years ago, he was among the protesters who successfully blockaded Buncefield.

He said: "We don't want to disrupt the public - they have done that for themselves. But I felt I wanted to come here today to voice my opinion. It's now harder than ever for hauliers."

Things seem to be getting harder for hauliers' protests too. Oil refineries and depots up and down the country continued without a hitch, attended by no more than a few dozen protesters.

At the Vopak oil refinery in Essex, the most notable moment came when a haulier with a bad back was arrested after allegedly doing a U-turn in the road. He was removed from his cab, but needed to go to hospital with a slipped disc.

Police at Shell's Stanlow oil refinery in Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, were left twiddling their thumbs.

A spokesman for the police said: "Two people did turn up earlier on foot and they were allowed to go to the main gate. They left shortly afterwards."

Although the fuel protests failed to cause disruption, motorists were still panic buying yesterday. Those who had restrained themselves earlier in the week were now facing dwindling tanks and closed petrol stations.

"It's ridiculous," said Robert Goodman, a businessman at a Tesco service station in north London, one of a few still open. "I didn't panic buy earlier in the week and now I've got sod-all left. I've been looking for somewhere that's open."

Across the forecourt, Michelle Murray, a housewife from Finchley, north London, said she agreed with the protesters, but was angry at panic buying. "Mental, isn't it? We are all in a catch-22 situation. We need the petrol and so we will pay, whatever the price.''

David Harris, a taxi-driver from Chingford, Essex, was filling up with diesel at a Jet station that had run out of unleaded. "It's out of order. I have to find fuel to do my job."

He had limited sympathy with the protesters. "They have a point, but the problem is that no one wants to pay taxes, do they? The only people winning out of this are the fuel companies."

The picture was similar elsewhere in Britain. One motorist in Bristol said she had headed for the pumps on Tuesday to ensure she had enough petrol to get her children to school, but said that the forecourts were empty yesterday.

Lisa Screen, 31, said: "I didn't want to panic buy but you need fuel, especially when you've got kids to get to school. But by this morning it was back to normal."

In the North-east, panic buying had tailed off. Jenny Booth, a hairdresser from Chester-le-Street, Co Durham, said: "I have just come back from my honeymoon and the car was out of petrol so I was worried. But it's been no problem."

She added: "I do support the protesters but it's not the average road user's fault that the petrol is expensive."

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