Updated: Drivers urged not to panic at the pumps as union bosses confirm ‘no strike before Easter’

The scene at Hindmarch's in Stamford
The scene at Hindmarch's in Stamford
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PETROL station owners were calling on motorists to be sensible as fears of a tanker driver strike ease.

The Unite union, which represents tanker drivers has announced this morning (Friday) that there will not be a strike before Easter.

The busy forecourt at the Co-op filling  station, Burley Road, Oakham  - a queue forms as cars fill up

The busy forecourt at the Co-op filling station, Burley Road, Oakham - a queue forms as cars fill up

Unite said its drivers would not be striking before the holiday weekend as there must be at least seven days’ notice, talks are due to start next week.

The Government’s advice to motorists to fill up their tanks started a mad rush to get fuel on Wednesday.

In Oakham cars were queuing throughout the day on Wednesday and Thursday and even today (Friday) at the BP petrol station in Burley Road.

Staff reported that sales on Wednesday increased almost 50 per cent.

A spokesman for Midland Co-operative which owns the BP garage said: “It is absolutely mad. There are cars queuing all over the shop.

“It’s not a case of running out of fuel, we’re just really busy.”

Managing director of Hindmarch and Co in Uffington Road, Stamford, Michael Hindmarch said yesterday: “We are extremely busy and we have had some queuing but we are keeping them off the road.

“Drivers are filling their tanks to ward off anything that might happen. We are shifting double the amount of fuel we would normally expect.

“At the moment we have a lot of fuel, we have large storage tanks and we are expecting a tanker. As of yet we have no restrictions on our re-supply.”

Over the road, Morrisons reported that petrol sales at its filling station in Uffington Road had been higher than normal over the last couple of days. It too was were confident it would not be running out any time soon.

A spokesman from the Morrisons’ press office said: “We are well prepared and have got strong supplies at the moment.

“We recommend that people don’t buy more fuel than they need.”

The number of drivers at BP in Scotgate, Stamford, seemed slim yesterday and signs indicate that the initial panic has calmed down and numbers are starting to drop off.

BP spokesman Mark Salt said: “We have seen an increase in sales across the country but it is calming down now. Stocks across the country are at a reasonable level and we will continue to supply our forecourts.”

But in Market Deeping supplies at the Total petrol station owned by Anglia Co-operative are already looking low. A spokesman said it had been very busy and everyone was talking about the possibility of a strike.

“We had a delivery on Wednesday and can’t get another one until Sunday,” he said. “Diesel supplies are already low and I’m not sure if they will hold out until then.”

The Jet garage in Morcott, Colin Easson Motors in Cottesmore and Kates Bridge filling station in Kates Bridge near Bourne ran out of diesel yesterday but were all expecting deliveries within 24 hours.

Customers filling up at the pumps at Hindmarch in Uffington Road yesterday were in two minds about the situation.

Sue Lewis, of Legg Road, Wittering, said: “I know they are saying not to panic but it’s difficult not to. Last time it happened I ignored it and I ran out of petrol in the end. I’m filling up because it is the school holidays next week and it’s a precaution, just in case.”

Jill Hewitt, of Main Road, Tallington, said: “I need petrol anyway but I’m filling up partly because I think we might get short on petrol.

“I have a lot of driving to do and I’m just making sure I have enough.

“I’m trying not to panic just yet and I have heard they have plenty of petrol left to go around. It’s just precautionary.”

Derek King, of Church Lane, Creeton, said: “I can’t believe what is happening.

“The queues at Morrisons are terrible. I blame the Government. Everyone is being so silly.”

There were also long queues at petrol stations in Oakham and Bourne.Business owners are concerned about the impact a cut in fuel supplies could.

Sue Grace, who owns Starline Taxis in Glen Crescent, Stamford, said: “I don’t know how we will cope. If they run out of petrol at the pumps it will be devastating for us.

“We go through a lot of fuel every day. We own six cabs. We are just going to play it by ear. We’ll wait until they give notice of the strike and then panic.”

Managing director of distribution company CS Ellis Group in South Luffenham, Trevor Ellis said: “We are totally reliant on fuel and we are doing all we can, working with our suppliers and customers to try to ensure continued supply.

“We have made contingency plans and our staff, who are amazingly resourceful, will do everything they can to keep us moving. We have more than 170 staff members that depend on it.

“It is one of the busiest times of the year for us and our customers. We hope that common sense prevails and a dispute which will damage the economy severely is avoided.”

John Young who owns Rutland Cabs in Burley Crescent, Oakham, said: “We have got three taxis and are just going to keep an eye on the situation.

“We are topping cars up when we can. It is going to be a problem. This morning I tried to get into the petrol station and they were queuing and I didn’t have time to wait.

“We would have to turn people away. But we have been in this situation before and have managed. We travel all over the place so have access to a lot of petrol. We’re just going to have to rely on common sense.”

Anthony Delaine-Smith who runs Delaine Buses in Spalding Road, Bourne, says they are not going to take any action until a strike is announced.

The unions have to give seven days notice before a strike is called.

Mr Delaine-Smith said: “I saw the queues this morning but we are not panicking yet.

“We have our own supplies and they are fine at the moment.

“It is the school holidays from next week and our fuel consumption always goes down then because we are not doing the school runs which will help.

“It looks likely that they will strike over Easter which is a shame for a lot of people.”

But not everyone is seeing the threat of strike as a shame.

Vikki Brown of Main Street, Greatford is a mobile hairdresser. She said: “People who are panic buying are stupid. I need the petrol for my job but I am putting in my usual amount and no more.

“It make me laugh that people who have been complaining about petrol prices have suddenly found the £50 they need to fill up.

“If I can’t get petrol then I’ll get on my bike or walk!”

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