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Prime Minister Tony Blair
"We will not alter government policy on petrol through blockades"
 real 56k

The BBC's John McIntyre
"The petrol crisis left motorists crawling at a snails pace"
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The BBC's Carole Walker
"A very strong message from the Prime Minister"
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Monday, 11 September, 2000, 07:56 GMT 08:56 UK
UK fuel shortages worsen
Refineries and deopts hit by protests
Main refineries and depots targeted across the UK
Motorists around Britain are facing increasing shortages of petrol as protests against soaring fuel prices gather pace.

Six out of the country's nine oil refineries and four distribution depots are now subject to blockades by picketing lorry drivers and farmers.

When you have got such an emotive issue the great British public does respond

Brynle Williams
Campaign spokesman
Panic buying by consumers has exacerbated the problem and hundreds of petrol stations, if they have not already run dry, have now resorted to rationing supplies.

The UK government, which takes almost 80% of the price of petrol in taxation and duty, has insisted "there is no quick fix", blaming high petrol costs on increased oil prices.

An attempt to lower prices has been launched by the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec). But analysts say Opec's decision to increase production by 3%, or an extra 800,000 barrels per day, is likely to have little effect.

Traffic chaos

More than 100 Liverpool taxi drivers were the latest recruits to join the national campaign, at Stanlow in Cheshire, and a protest in Liverpool city centre is expected to cause gridlock later on Monday.

Stanlow is being widely regarded as the HQ for the protest, but campaigners are hoping for increased support from the north-east and south-east of England.

Protests in Greater Manchester, Leeds, north Wales, Essex and Bristol over the weekend have already had a significant effect and the situation is expected to worsen throughout Monday.

Notice telling customers they can only buy 5 worth of petrol
Running dry: Petrol rationing at one York garage
Hauliers staged a protest at the giant oil terminal at Immingham, on the Humber estuary, at the weekend.

Protestors also closed the country's largest inland oil terminal, at Kingsbury in the West Midlands.

There was disruption at Avonmouth, in Bristol, where Texaco and Fina both have depots, and in the Cardiff docks area.

In west Wales, campaigners blockaded the Texaco depot in Pembroke.

The large Manchester Fuels Terminal, in Trafford Park, which services Esso, Texaco and Elf outlets, has been closed since pickets were set up on Saturday evening.

About 100 tractors and wagons caused chaos on the A1 in Northumbria, and the A55 in north Wales was also affected.

In Dorset, police were expecting traffic chaos during Monday's morning rush hour after receiving warnings that drivers would be taking part in go-slow protests in Poole, Bournemouth and Wimborne.

Calls on government

During Sunday night, about 30 drivers gathered for a peaceful demonstration outside the Esso refinery in Hythe, near Southampton.

In Leeds, Total Fina Refinery and Stiller Transport suspended the movement of fuel after protests overnight and a picket at North Killingholme in North Lincolnshire was continuing on Monday.

Scotland saw lorry drivers staging a go-slow protest on main routes in Edinburgh at 0700 BST on Monday, and a Lothian and Borders Police spokesperson said major delays were already occurring.

Brynle Williams, a sheep and beef farmer from Colcain, near Mold in North Wales, who has been involved in the protest for five days, said he was not surprised that protests had escalated across the country.

He said: "When you have got such an emotive issue the great British public does respond.

"We have got to a stage where there is such a very unfair and very unjust tax. The only person who can solve this is the Chancellor, Mr Gordon Brown.

"Supplies are simply drying up. The next thing I believe we're going to start seeing is food shortages on the shelves. Unlike France we are only a small country and we will break a lot quicker."

Lorry drivers at the protest outside Texaco's Pembrokeshire refinery
Drivers say rising fuel prices will drive them out of business
Roy Holloway, director of the Petrol Retailers' Association, warned that the protests could eventually result in vital supplies to hospitals and industry being affected.

Meanwhile in France, where the protests originally began, hauliers announced that all blockades at refineries and depots had now been lifted following a deal with the government.

However, similar protests are being held in Belgium and Italy, with hauliers in Ireland threatening action starting next week.

The leader of the engineering union, the AEEU, Sir Ken Jackson, called on ministers to cut duties on petrol and diesel.

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See also:

11 Sep 00 | Business
Oil down after Opec boost
11 Sep 00 | Europe
Europe sees copy-cat blockades
11 Sep 00 | UK Politics
Byers denies fuel tax to blame
11 Sep 00 | Scotland
Fuel protest traffic chaos
31 Aug 00 | Business
Oil markets explained
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