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Thursday, 14 September, 2000, 15:16 GMT 16:16 UK
Countdown to crisis: Eight days that shook Britain

BBC News Online recounts the escalating protests over fuel prices that caught the government, the media and the motorists on the hop.

Thursday 7 September: As the price of crude oil nudges $35 a barrel, a litre of fuel in the UK looks set to rise by 2p.

Already paying about 80p a litre - the highest petrol prices in the developed world - motoring groups react with anger.

Inspired by the successful protests in France a week earlier, about 100 farmers and lorry drivers from Wales and north-west England blockade the Stanlow Shell Oil Refinery in Cheshire.

Most telling detail: Farmers for Action chairman David Handley warns the protest may escalate into a "winter of unrest".

Friday 8 September: Public anger begins to sweep the country. More than 100 lorries stage a "go-slow" protest on the A1 before blockading the Texaco refinery in Pembroke.

MTD: The energy crisis of 1973 - which saw oil prices rocket worldwide and rampant inflation in the UK - suddenly seems eerily familiar.

Saturday 9 September: Although the protesters are not actively preventing tanker drivers from leaving the refineries, the vehicles stand idle and empty.

Some drivers say they are reluctant to cross the unofficial picket lines, but in the main, oil companies instruct them to stay put - apparently out of concern for their safety.

MTD: As early editions of the Sunday papers hit the streets, the protests rate fewer column inches than Mo Mowlam's new biography.

Sunday 10 September: Ministers from the 11 Opec oil-producing countries agree to pump an extra 800,000 barrels a day to bring down prices.

The nation's rallying cry
Chancellor Gordon Brown flatly refuses to be swayed by the disruption, saying decisions are made in budgets not blockades.

Nervous motorists start stockpiling fuel, causing a run on petrol, which in turn sparks yet more panic buying.

MTD: Ambulance drivers in Staffordshire are instructed to stick to 55mph on non-emergency call-outs in an effort to save petrol .

Monday 11 September: Lorry drivers in Edinburgh and Liverpool taxi drivers stage "go slows" through the streets of their respective cities.

The Privy Council and the Queen sanction the use of emergency powers to control the distribution of fuel.

MTD: As public support builds, even the organisers of the original blockade are taken by surprise. "It just happened," farmer Richard Haddock tells BBC News Online when asked how the protests spread across the UK.

Tuesday 12 September: Government ministers hold a series of crisis meetings on getting fuel out of the refineries - under contingency powers, they can direct oil companies to designate petrol stations to supply emergency and essential services only.

Prime Minister Tony Blair vows to get the tankers moving again within 24 hours.

MTD: Motorists' tempers flare at the few remaining petrol stations with fuel stocks, as forecourt staff try to ration purchases to 5-worth of petrol each.

Wednesday 13 September: A total of 280 tankers leave depots around the UK, in addition to the 60 which pulled out on Tuesday night - just a fraction of the 3,000 deliveries typically made each day. More than 90% of petrol stations have run dry.

The M25 - unusually empty of delivery lorries
Some 200 truckers park up along Park Lane, bringing parts of central London to a standstill.

Food rationing returns to Britain as panic buying shifts to supermarkets. Some shops are bare of bread and milk.

The NHS is put on red alert - which means at a moment's notice, all hospitals must be ready to cancel all but emergency cases.

MTD: Royal Hull Hospital runs out of stitches for use in operations.

Thursday 14 September: Most protesters call off the blockades, saying they have made their point loud and clear.

While Mr Blair welcomes the end, he again rules out capitulating to protesters' demands for tax cuts to bring the price of fuel down.

MTD: As the petrol drought forces drivers onto public transport, bus companies across the country curtail services to conserve dwindling fuel stocks.

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14 Sep 00 | UK
UK fuel blockades tumble
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