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Tuesday, 12 September, 2000, 17:00 GMT 18:00 UK
Eyewitnesses from both sides of the blockade
Ian Cryer and his horse Truman at Avonmouth Docks
Ian Cryer and Truman cross the picket line
BBC News Online talks to people around the UK caught up in the fuel crisis: a disgruntled businessman, a protesting haulier, a service station manager and a horse-and-cart man.

The businessman
Tony Worsdall is a self-employed internet consultant who was caught up in the French blockades for five days, only returning home to Reading, Berkshire, on Monday night.

"I got back home about 11pm, and nearly ran straight into the back of a queue coming out of the back of my local petrol station.

We found out the Prime Minister was in town and decided to join the protests

Heather Nicholson
"All day people have been asking me why I couldn't have left the trouble in France.

"It's a bit galling that having lost five days' business in France, that I'm actually stopped from doing my business here as well for exactly the same reasons.

"It loses me a lot of money. Every day I can't do business I'm losing about 1,000.

"But I have sympathy with the people who are blockading, I don't think they're doing anything desperately wrong.

"I put fuel in my car every week - I never believed I would own a car that cost 35 to fill. It costs well on the way to 40 to do it now."

The haulier
On Monday night, protesters in Hull forced the Prime Minister Tony Blair to abandon plans to celebrate his deputy's 30 years as an MP at a local Chinese restaurant.

Closed petrol pump
Pumps are running dry
Among the 100-odd vehicles blockading the streets around the venue was haulier Heather Nicholson, of east Yorkshire's AR and HE Nicholson transport.

"We found out the prime minister was in town and decided to take our vehicle out to join the protests," Mrs Nicholson told BBC News Online.

"There were taxis and tractors as well as lorries - we kept in touch on the telephone and the CB."

Mrs Nicholson says that if the fuel crisis continues, her haulage business may have to park up its 10 lorries and consider staff cuts.

"We're getting to the stage now where we're losing money every week," she says.

"The price rises have a big impact - our vehicles only do seven-and-a-half to eight miles to the litre so we buy 10,000 litres of diesel a week.

"If it goes up by a penny, it's easy to work out how much extra we have to pay out."

The service station manager

Tempers are fraying at the Q8 garage, in Roughton, Norfolk - motorists keen to stockpile petrol have taken exception to the service station rationing their purchases to 5 each.

People are getting nasty now

Leigh Hewett
"It's very, very hectic," says assistant manager Leigh Hewett. "They announced on the radio that we had fuel left and it just got chaotic."

A police officer is directing traffic at the garage because motorists have been ignoring staff members' pleas not to queue on the main road.

"People are getting nasty now, shouting their opinions at us," she says.

"We've only got about 6,000 litres left and that's not going to last long."

The horse-and-cart driver
Many businesses have scaled back operations, but a one-man concern in Bristol has picked up extra work. Ian Cryer and his carthorse Truman are making short-haul deliveries for Speedy Hire Centres because the firm's vans are low on fuel.

Young's Brewery horses
Beer delivery, south London-style
"The blockades have created a bit of extra work for me," says Mr Cryer, of the Railway Horse and Cartage Collection.

"Usually I only work in the weekends, putting on shows at preserved railways, but this has thrown up some real deliveries for me."

Unlike the gas-guzzling contraptions which superseded shirehorses last century, Truman runs on just grass, hay and a few pieces of cake.

Mr Cryer got the job thanks to long-time friend Andy Orchard, the depot manager for the hire centres.

Mr Orchard says: "Our fuel supplies got critical, so we decided to keep the vans for the larger tools and longer distances only.

"It makes for an interesting twist on the old Blair dream - ordering everything over the internet but delivering it by horse and cart."



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