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Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 September, 2003, 23:03 GMT 00:03 UK
One fuel rise too many?
On Wednesday the cost of purchasing a gallon of diesel or petrol will rise by 5p.

In protest at the increase, motorists across Britain are being urged to "stop for a minute" during morning rush hour.

The protest is hardly on the scale of 2000's fuel demonstrations, which almost brought the country to its knees, although campaigners have promised further action.

So is the latest increase one fuel rise too many for the UK's motorists?

BBC News Online spoke to five drivers.

Keith Abel, managing director of Abel & Cole, an organic delivery business.

Mr Abel's company delivers organic vegetables to more than 4,000 customers a week, in London and the south of England.

The company has its own van fleet, and with distribution accounting for about 25% of the business, any fuel increases have an "impact", he says.

"It is not so much the 5p it is just the slow creep [of rises] - it is 5p every six months. Just a few years back we were paying only 55p a litre now we are paying nearly 70p. It is a substantial increase."

I'm all in favour of increasing the price of fossil fuels...but there has to be an alternative.
Keith Abel, Abel & Cole

The company is in the process of converting more of its vans to LPG, because of the tax and environmental benefits.

It now has five vehicles on LPG, with seven still run on diesel.

Mr Abel says fuel duty increases have encouraged his firm to research bio fuels.

His company is even considering setting up a plant, principally to convert oil seed rape into bio diesel.

"I'm all in favour of increasing the price of fossil fuels...but there has to be an alternative.

"The government could do some very small work to encourage a very big tax break into bio diesels."

But he says, without this vital tax break - and impetus from the government, "no business will look at it".

Stuart Wheeler, a travelling salesman for a toy importer

Each month, Mr Wheeler makes two long trips from his home in London: One to Ireland and one to Scotland.

He drives up to 4,000 miles a month through his work selling toys - and his fuel bill normally tots up to about 300 a month.

If the roads are clear I can see ten customers in a day if they are busy; I can see six if the roads are clear.
Stuart Wheeler

He normally picks up the tab through his company's credit card - and so he sees little impact on of fuel rises on his own wallet.

But the increase still affects his business.

"Our couriers who deliver our goods keep on putting their prices up, so it is costing us more to send goods out - that's where we pick up most of the bill for the increases."

He says sales reps would like to see increases in tax spent on improving roads.

"If the roads are clear I can see ten customers in a day; if they are busy I can see six."

Peter Gadd, a farmer from Stragglethorpe, in Nottinghamshire

Mr Gadd runs a 300-acre family farm in south Nottinghamshire, and is on the National Farmers' Union council.

He grows oilseed rape, peas, wheat, barley, sugar beet - and also keeps a herd of South Devon pedigree beef cattle.

It punishes rural businesses and communities
Peter Gadd, a farmer

Mr Gadd says he is not a supporter of militant protests, but can understand why people are venting their frustration about price rises.

The current administration is an "urban-thinking government," he says.

"The increase in fuel costs will increase my haulage costs, and obviously these will be passed on to the producer," he says.

"And those people in more rural locations will be that more penalised, because of their location."

Fuel increases are not only having an impact on farm turnover - but on rural life.

"It punishes rural businesses and communities," he says.

Nigel Barton, operations director for TNT Express in the UK and Ireland

Mr Barton is the operations director for one of the largest courier businesses in the world - but cheap continental fuel prices are a constant bugbear.

The government has to start thinking that the fuel price is not something they can manipulate
Nigel Barton, TNT

In Spain and Portugal the cost of a litre of diesel is only about 50p. In the Netherlands, just a short hop across the channel, it is 55p a litre.

In effect, it means that for every mile, a Dutch truck is effectively saving 12p over a UK-based one, he says.

"That's significant money."

His firm is passing the latest increase on to customers as soon as it starts.

He says the different level of fuel duty around Europe is effectively a "method of unfair competition" and he wants duty to be harmonised across Europe.

"We think the government has to start thinking that the fuel price is not something they can manipulate."

But Mr Barton believes any sort of widespread blockade-style protests, seen during the last fuel strike, would be"shooting ourselves in the foot".

Jean Turner, manager of Darling's Flowers of Holborn.

It is not fuel prices that is bothering this florist in central London, it is the congestion charge and poor air quality.

"5p is a bit of a drop in the ocean," says Jean Turner, the florist's manager.

She says that while she would be bothered if prices rose by as much as a pound, she is more concerned by poor air quality.

A quarter of the firm's deliveries are now either by bicycle or through other environmentally-friendly transport, she says.

"I can't imagine that 5p is really going to do much for me in how much I send on petrol, but what does affect me is the pollution."


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