Hitchin and Letchworth petrol stations shut after panic buying

PANIC buying has led to fuel shortages and queuing at petrol stations across Comet country during the last 24 hours over fears of a tankers’ strike.

Motorists began queuing at petrol stations yesterday (Wednesday) with delays continuing this morning (Thursday) amid concerns that fuel tanker drivers will walkout.

The Shell garages in Bedford Road, Hitchin, and Letchworth Gate have both shut due to a lack of fuel.

Manager Vatniesh Kuemar at the Bedford Road garage said: “It’s been very busy, there have been lots of queues, particularly last night, it was very long.

“Yesterday morning, we got a delivery, but in the evening around 8pm, it ran out. We are expecting another delivery this morning.”

Raj Vabivel, the manager at Shell in Letchworth Gate, added: “We had queues yesterday and today in the morning, and now we haven’t got any fuel. We’ve kept some back for the ambulance service.

“The shop is open, but we have no fuel. We’re not sure yet when we’ll get another delivery.”

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Drivers were queuing for petrol at Sainsbury’s in Letchworth GC this morning, with similar problems reported at the supermarket’s Corey’s Mill and Poplars stores in Stevenage last night. There have also been queues at Tesco in Baldock.

Hitchin resident Josh Tidy told the Comet via Twitter this morning: “Letchworth GC Sainsbury’s was pretty chocca block this morning. And by all accounts last night too according to till staff. Very silly.”

Jon Pace, from Stevenage, said: “It’s ridiculous! Seven days strike notice and most stations have five days fuel, so if people carried on as normal there is no problem.”

The Government has been criticised by petrol station operators after urging motorists and businesses to “have contingency plans in place”, despite the fact that seven days’ notice must be given before a walkout can take place.

The majority of fuel tanker drivers represented by union UNITE have voted in favour of strikes because of a range of issues including safety and pay.

Armed forces personnel have been put on standby to drive fuel tankers if the situation escalates.

Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service has issued a warning about stocking up on fuel, as the law only allows for the storage of up to 20 litres of petrol in two 10-litre metal containers, or 10 litres in two five-litre plastic containers.

Chief fire officer Roy Wilsher said: “I don’t think people realise the explosive risks involved in storing fuel, even if it is done legally and sensibly. We would strongly advise Hertfordshire residents not to stock up on petrol. Given the small amount that is legal to store it’s hardly worth the enormous risk to lives and property.”

*Have you been affected by petrol shortages or queuing? If so, comment below and email your views to nick.gill@thecomet.net

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