Fuel shortages were secretly building at filling stations for WEEKS before public found out

Fuel stocks were on the decline in the North West for weeks before the news became public - and dropped to as low as 17% of capacity over three days in September, Manchester World can reveal.
Petrol pumps Photo:ShutterstockPetrol pumps Photo:Shutterstock
Petrol pumps Photo:Shutterstock

Fuel shortages had been secretly building at filling stations for more than three weeks before becoming public and sparking panic-buying, new figures show.

Stocks of petrol and diesel shrank first in London and the South East, before spreading to the rest of the country including the North West, the Government data reveals.

The London area continues to be hardest hit by the tanker driver shortage, with the Petrol Retailers’ Association revealing that 13% of independent retailers in London and the South East were still dry yesterday.

Experimental data released today by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) reveals that average stocks at British forecourts had been below pre-pandemic levels since May and had dwindled steadily from August 30.

Supplies of petrol and diesel at the average forecourt had fallen to just a third of capacity (33%) by September 18 - five days before forecourt closures came to public attention, sparking widespread panic-buying.

London felt the pinch first, with forecourt stocks falling to a third of capacity as early as September 10.

In the North West, stocks of petrol and diesel at the average forecourt dropped steadily from 40% of capacity on 5 September to 22% by 23 September - and were at their lowest at just 17% of capacity between 25-27 September, before slowly climbing back up.

The data is based on end-of-day stock figures at about 4,500 filling stations, representing 80% of the market, and is sourced from the Government website.

The Government has this week deployed almost 200 military tanker personnel, 100 of whom are drivers, to provide temporary support to relieve pressure on petrol stations and address the shortage of HGV drivers.

Announcing the move last weekend, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: “Thanks to the immense efforts of industry over the past week, we are seeing continued signs that the situation at the pumps is slowly improving.

“UK forecourt stock levels are trending up, deliveries of fuel to forecourts are above normal levels, and fuel demand is stabilising.”

The Government has been contacted for further comment.