- Johnson says fuel situation is improving
- Army tanker drivers to be deployed if needed
- Retailers caution about Christmas supply
- Brexit, pandemic have contributed to problem
LONDON, Sept 28 (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson sought on Wednesday to quell public fears as panic-buying left fuel pumps dry across major cities, saying the government was making preparations to ensure supply chains were ready for the run-up to Christmas.
Johnson said the situation at gas stations was improving, though in many regions, hundreds of forecourts remained closed and motorists spent hours hunting for fuel or sat snarled in queues waiting to fill their tanks.
“We now are starting to see the situation improve. We are hearing from industry that supplies are coming back onto the forecourt in the normal way and I would just really urge everybody to go about their business in the normal way,” Johnson said in televised remarks.
Johnson’s comments were his first since the fuel supply problems began at the end of last week when oil companies reported difficulty transporting petrol and diesel from refineries to filling stations.
Opposition Labour leader Keir Starmer accused him and the government of lurching from “crisis to crisis”.
There have been growing calls for doctors, nurses and other essential workers to be given priority in filling their cars to keep hospitals and social care services running, but Johnson said it would be better if “we stabilise it in the normal way”. read more
An air of chaos has gripped Britain, the world’s fifth-largest economy, in recent weeks as a shortage of truck drivers strained supply chains and a spike in European wholesale natural gas prices tipped energy companies into bankruptcy.
The post-Brexit dearth of truckers has been exacerbated by a halt to truck-driving-licence testing during COVID lockdowns as well as people leaving the haulage industry.
It has sown chaos through supply chains and raised the spectre of widespread shortages, price increases ahead of Christmas, and a prolonged rise in inflation.
“What we want to do is make sure that we have all the preparations necessary to get through until Christmas and beyond, not just in supplying the petrol stations but all parts of our supply chain,” Johnson said.
To tackle the shortage of drivers, the government has been forced to bring in measures it had previously ruled out, such as issuing temporary visas to 5,000 foreign drivers.
It has also put a limited number of military tanker drivers on standby to be deployed to deliver fuel if necessary.
Hauliers, petrol stations and retailers say there are no quick fixes as the shortfall of truck drivers – estimated at about 100,000 – is so acute, and because transporting fuel demands additional training and licensing.
Ministers want businesses to pay more and…
Read More: As fuel pumps remain dry, UK’s Johnson says plans in place for supply chains