Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point

In Depth

On Air

Low Graphics

Tuesday, May 18, 1999 Published at 18:20 GMT 19:20 UK


Truck protest triggers motorway misery

Hundreds of lorry drivers set off from two service stations

A demonstration by hundreds of truckers has brought the the UK's busiest road to a near standstill.

Robert Hall reports: " The road block reduced traffic to a crawl"
Tailbacks of up to 12 miles were reported on sections of London's orbital M25 on Tuesday as a slow convoy of drivers crawled at 30mph along the inside two lanes.

The chaos began after about 150 lorries moved off from the South Mimms service station in Hertfordshire at noon, while about the same number left the Clacket Lane service area in Surrey.

The truckers are holding the two-day demonstration to protest about the costs of diesel and road tax announced in this year's Budget.

The South Mimms' protesters drove anti-clockwise around the 119-mile route, taking up two lanes of the motorway and trying to occupy three lanes on the four-lane stretches.

[ image: Drivers face two days of chaos]
Drivers face two days of chaos
Vehicles moving off from Clacket Lane went clockwise.

The situation was made worse by an earlier accident at junction eight at Reigate in Surrey, which blocked two lanes in the clockwise direction.

An AA spokesman said that southern and western stretches of the motorway were "chock-a-block".

And the new Transport Minister, Helen Liddell, criticised the demonstration.

"I think it is unfortunate that truckers are causing disruption," she said.

"The government is very keen to establish dialogue. I don't think it helps anyone and disrupts the lives of ordinary people trying to go about their daily business."

'Not a blockade'

The protesters say the action is not a blockade, but police have warned motorists to avoid the M25 if possible.

Kent-based haulier Frank Stears, the organiser of the lorry drivers' protest group, Transaction, which is taking part in the protest, said: "We are doing this to save our livelihoods."

One of the protesters who moved off from South Mimms was Gary Donaldson, 54, who runs a small haulage business in Finedon, near Wellingborough in Northamptonshire.

He said: "The protest has had the desired effect. I know the public will be inconvenienced, but how else can we get our argument across?"

[ image: Saturday's demonstration in Newcastle]
Saturday's demonstration in Newcastle
The M25 action follows Monday's protests in Middlesbrough, a demonstration in Newcastle last Saturday and other nationwide city centre protests in the last few weeks.

A spokesman for Kent Police said: "The people conducting these protests have so far shown no desire to break the law and we are expecting to keep a low profile unless there is any law-breaking."

Fury over fuel costs

Hauliers are furious over recent fuel price increases and some fear they could go out of business.

Others have threatened to base their businesses abroad to take advantage of less stringent tax regimes.

In a bid to appease their anger, the government set up a road haulage industry forum to deal with truckers' grievances.

But a number of hauliers have dismissed it as a mere "talking shop".

An NOP poll last week revealed 79% of the public supported the truckers' protests, but a quarter of those questioned were strongly against blockades.

Green support for price rises

Transport 2000, Friends of the Earth and the Council for the Protection of Rural England, welcome the rise in lorry fuel costs and vehicle taxes.

Stephen Joseph, Director of Transport 2000 said: "Taxation is part of the solution to transport problems.

"Transport has to be priced properly and the moves made by this and previous governments are in the right direction.

"But taxation is only one aspect of a sustainable transport policy. Freight policy should include measures to tax foreign lorries fully in the UK and promote alternatives such as rail freight."

Roger Higman, of Friends of the Earth said: "Cutting duties on diesel will only encourage more companies to send their goods by road, causing more heavy lorries to thunder through the backstreets and country lanes of Britain.

"If Mr Blair is worried about business costs, he should invest in better rail freight facilities rather than cutting fuel duties."

Lilli Matson, for CPRE said: "Country lanes in villages are plagued by heavy lorries thundering down them.

"Financial incentives which encourage more freight onto rail and cut the distance travelled, are urgently needed to reduce the environmental damage caused by heavy goods vehicles."

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

UK Contents

Northern Ireland

Relevant Stories

30 Apr 99 | UK
M25 faces 48-hour blockade

26 Apr 99 | UK Politics
Olive branch for hauliers

26 Apr 99 | UK Politics
Peace offering to angry truckers

24 Mar 99 | UK Politics
Prescott stands firm on fuel tax

Internet Links

Traffic Magazine

Road Hauliers Association

Department of Transport

Transport 2000

Friends of the Earth

Council for the Protection of Rural England

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

In this section

Next steps for peace

Blairs' surprise over baby

Bowled over by Lord's

Beef row 'compromise' under fire

Hamilton 'would sell mother'

Industry misses new trains target

From Sport
Quins fightback shocks Cardiff

From Business
Vodafone takeover battle heats up

IRA ceasefire challenge rejected

Thousands celebrate Asian culture

From Sport
Christie could get two-year ban

From Entertainment
Colleagues remember Compo

Mother pleads for baby's return

Toys withdrawn in E.coli health scare

From Health
Nurses role set to expand

Israeli PM's plane in accident

More lottery cash for grassroots

Pro-lifers plan shock launch

Double killer gets life

From Health
Cold 'cure' comes one step closer

From UK Politics
Straw on trial over jury reform

Tatchell calls for rights probe into Mugabe

Ex-spy stays out in the cold

From UK Politics
Blair warns Livingstone

From Health
Smear equipment `misses cancers'

From Entertainment
Boyzone star gets in Christmas spirit

Fake bubbly warning

Murder jury hears dead girl's diary

From UK Politics
Germ warfare fiasco revealed

Blair babe triggers tabloid frenzy

Tourists shot by mistake

A new look for News Online