‘Panic’ over strike talk

The pumps at Asda, Fulwood, closed for several hours
The pumps at Asda, Fulwood, closed for several hours
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Petrol station bosses across Lancashire today told how they have seen an increase of customers ‘panic buying’ following a vote by fuel delivery drivers to go on strike.

A national walkout over conditions by some 2,000 delivery drivers could come as soon as next week, union bosses have warned.

That has sparked fears that forecourts could run out of fuel, sparking a repeat of scenes during the last strike in 2000.

Drivers from seven major distribution companies, which supply some of the largest petrol stations and supermarkets, were balloted for industrial action.

The Asda petrol station in Fulwood closed completely yesterday afternoon before a tanker refilled the pumps several hours late.

Salim Dhila, manager of the New Hall Lane Filling Station, in Fishwick, Preston, said: “Some people have been panic buying the fuel.

“I would not be able to count them but there has been more (customers) than usual.

“As long as we have got the fuel in the tanks we can serve customers.

“Of course we are concerned but I had a fuel delivery this morning and the delivery driver was telling me it should be sorted before they go on strike.” Elaine Wellings, a partner at Houghtons Filling Station, Garstang Bypass Road, Garstang, said: “People are mentioning it and obviously it is busier.

“It is headlines on the news. The headlines are don’t panic so everyone does. People think about what happened in 2000. Last time we didn’t run out because we rationed everybody when things got bad.”

A worker at the Shell garage, on Garstang Road, Preston, said: “We had some queues (yesterday) morning and customers panicking we had run out of fuel.”

The cost of unleaded in Preston current stands at a high of 144p, with diesel standing at 149.9p.

The Unite union has said that any walkout by delivery drivers could bring chaos to forecourts within two days. It said no strike dates would be announced until meetings with local union leaders had been held.

Meanwhile, the Government has claimed it has learned lessons from the previous strike and was preparing contingency plans, including training the Army to stand in.

Fuel deliveries ground to a halt in 2000, causing chaos at petrol stations across the country. Pumps also ran dry in Lancashire in 2005 following threats of fuel demonstrations in the county.