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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 October, 2003, 16:15 GMT 17:15 UK
Petrol tax protest falters
Gateshead convoy
Hauliers held protests in 2000 over petrol increases
Petrol tax has risen on Wednesday but there have been few signs of the mass protest predicted on the roads by activists.

Fuel protest leaders had urged motorists to stop their vehicles for one minute at 0830 BST to make a stand against Wednesday's increase of 1.28p per litre.

But motoring organisations reported there had been "no sign" of any protest.

Petrol prices compared, contrasted and in context

Many drivers may not have noticed the increase, because retailers are divided over whether to pass on the new petrol tax rise to their customers.

The People's Fuel Lobby said it had strong support, and prominent fuel protester Andrew Spence continued on Wednesday to claim victory over the government.

"We have had protests in Manchester, London, Dartford, all over the place, and I am over the moon," he said.

"From the phone calls I have received it has been an overwhelming success and the government should be worried."

Traffic on one of the busiest roads in the North East did reportedly come to a halt for two to three minutes as protesters carried out a momentary stoppage.

Supermarkets' pledge

Nineteen hauliers and farmers took to the A1 western bypass shortly after 0830 BST and traffic near the Metro Centre stopped as two lorries brought traffic to a standstill in front of assembled TV cameras.

The increase, which adds up to 5p per gallon, will not be added to forecourt pumps at Asda, Sainsbury's, Safeway and Morrisons, the supermarkets said.

In the increasingly international environment we operate in, road hauliers at least need a diesel fuel price equal to the rest of the EU
Road Haulage Association

But while their stance is backed by petrol stations Shell and Total, BP has said its petrol will be more expensive.

Tesco told BBC News Online it would continue to monitor the situation daily and "would not be beaten on price in any location".

Protest letter

The tax rise was confirmed by the government last week, having been postponed from April due to uncertainty about the world oil markets.

The division between retailers was evident when BBC News Online called a number of local filling stations in and around what is said statistically to be the UK's "most average" area.

Snapshot from 'average area' in West Yorkshire
Costcutters, Yeadon - no change: 79.9p
Fuelforce, Yeadon - up 1p: 75.9p
Morrisons, Guiseley - no change: 74.9p
BP Express, Guiseley - up 1p: 75.9p
Shell Roydsbeck, Leeds - no change: 73.5p
Texaco, outside Leeds - up 1p: 76.9p
Asda, near Leeds centre - no change: 73.5p
Tesco Express, Leeds - expected 1p rise from 74.9p
Prices per litre of unleaded fuel

The villages of Yeadon and Guiseley lie in the West Yorkshire ward of Aireborough, which the Office of National Statistics found to be the area which most closely matches average figures for population make-up and buying trends.

Half the stations surveyed there and in nearby Leeds had increased their prices by one pence, and half remained the same.

Road Haulage Association chairman Val Smith was due to deliver a letter of protest to Downing Street on Wednesday.

Rise 'essential'

It argues that "in the increasingly international environment we operate in, road hauliers at least need a diesel fuel price equal to the rest of the EU".

Farmers and hauliers organised blockades in protest at high fuel prices in September 2000, which nearly brought the UK to a halt.

The AA Motoring Trust said this week that it could not endorse the type of action planned.

"We couldn't as an organisation support a protest that will cause serious disruption and prevents people from going about their everyday lives," said spokesman Richard Freeman.

On Wednesday AA Roadwatch said: "We have monitored all the motorways and have seen no sign of any protest."

Environmental lobby group Friends of the Earth said the fuel duty rise was essential in tackle traffic growth.

"The cost of motoring is falling," said the group's transport campaigner Tony Bosworth.

"This is counter-productive if the government really wants people to use their cars less."

The BBC's Wyre Davies
"Last time around the fuel protests affected the entire country"

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