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NEWS Friday, 12 March, 1999, 01:23 GMT
Drivers paying Budget price
UK drivers find the forecourt an expensive place
A BBC report has revealed that petrol prices in UK are among the highest in world.

The cost of filling a tank is almost five times those in the US and even up to 40% higher than those in the neighbouring Republic of Ireland.

Unleaded petrol went up nearly 4p a litre in the Budget, taking the average price to 68p a litre. This is despite world oil prices falling for months.

The motorists' organisation, the AA, says that of the 34 London drivers are now asked to pay for 50 litres of unleaded petrol, 29 goes straight to the government in tax.

Elsewhere prices are much cheaper. In the US, the same amount of petrol costs just 7.62 in the capital, Washington.

Even on mainland Europe there are stark differences, with the motorist in Belgian capital Brussels paying 29.44 for 50 litres.

In the Republic of Ireland, the price gap is twice as wide, with a 50-litre tank costing 25.30.

Motorists from the north are crossing into the Republic to fill up for a 20p a litre reduction, saving even the small car driver 5 every time.

Irish garage sign
Irish garages are exploiting the market
It is not just motorists who are trying to avoid the high cost of road travel in the UK.

Lorry companies are starting to register vehicles across the channel, where the saving on diesel fuel is nothing compared to what can be saved on the price of actually owning a lorry.

This week's increases took road tax on a typical 38-tonne five axle lorry up to 5,000 in the UK, compared with less than 500 in France.

"We've got one or two based on the continent now," said Edward Stobart, Chairman of one of the country's best-known hauliers, Eddie Stobart Ltd.

His firm intends to move 250 of its vehicles abroad this year and he insisted it was not an opportunistic move.

Lorry
Lorry firms are feeling the pinch
"This is not to make more money, this is for survival."

But Mr Stobart's complaints, and those of UK motorists who have cast envious glances at pump prices during foreign holidays, seem set to fall on deaf ears.

The government has insisted it will continue to use a "price escalator" to raise fuel prices by a figure well above inflation.

It is seen as an essential measure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and restrict road use.

UK drivers can probably expect more of the same next March.

The only way to offset the extra cost is to buy a smaller car, as road tax for those with engines of 1.1 litres or less falls by 55 from 1 June.

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Simon Montague: Filling up is an increasingly quick way of emptying pockets
See also:

08 Mar 99 | BUDGET BRIEFING
10 Mar 99 | NEWS
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