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THE LONDON TIMES: Race for pumps as fuel protesters take to road: “Sources confirmed, however, that the decision by the farmers’ group to protest at Stanlow and park heavy farm equipment and tractors near the Shell plant had changed the mood among some people.” ( 26 April 05


By Valerie Elliott, Consumer Editor  


A PICKET of more than 50 vehicles was positioned outside two oil refineries in West Wales last night to protest against high fuel prices.


Alan Greene, the chairman of the South West Wales Road Hauliers Association, said that he was hoping that the protest would last for a couple of days.


“It’s a not a flash in the pan,” he said after arriving at the Texaco refinery in Pembroke. Other protesters were making for the Elf refinery at Milford Haven. “We’re going to park up and we’re going to talk to the tanker drivers and see if they will talk to us,” he said.


Protesters were “independent people who are struggling to keep their taxis and their coaches on the road”, he said, and there had been support from members of the public as he had driven past them.


Dyfed-Powys Police said that the drivers of 35 lorries and about 12 cars had congregated at Cross Hands at the end of the M4 before heading west.


Hardliners at the meeting pressed for protests outside food distribution centres but were voted down.


A separate group of Welsh hauliers is planning to park vehicles outside the main oil distribution plant in Cardiff.


Motorists in Hampshire plan to join the protest with a go-slow to coincide with the rush hour early this morning. Three separate convoys will slow down to 40 mph on minor routes and 50 mph on the M27 motorway.


In other parts of the country motorists were rushing to fill their tanks last night as fears grew of a new protest similar to the one that threatened to bring the country to a standstill five years ago.


In Cheshire militant farmers gathered at the Stanlow oil refinery and other hauliers took sporadic action across the country.


The Road Haulage Association reported that some hauliers had said that protests were likely at the Fawley refinery near Southampton and a fuel distribution centre at Purfleet, Essex. Some farmers in Somerset were also reported to be heading for Avonmouth, and Scottish haulage and construction workers were planning to gather at Grangemouth.


There is anger among small and medium-size haulage firms that the leading supermarkets, which own fleets of vehicles, have failed to use their influence to lobby the Government over the high duty on fuel.


The action coincided with a further rise in the price of a barrel of crude oil, to $55.82 (£29.21), in New York, though that figure is below the record $58.28 a barrel recorded at the beginning of the month.


The average cost of petrol at British forecourts rose 4p a litre over the past month to stand at 85.92p a litre yesterday, according to the AA. Diesel was 90.03p a litre — well above the 84.2p level that sparked the last fuel protests of five years ago. The organisation appealed to motorists to stay calm and not to repeat the panic buying of petrol of five years ago.


The Department of Trade and Industry confirmed that it was monitoring the situation but that ministers had not signed emergency measures to call in troops to drive tankers, to give priority for petrol to key workers such as doctors and nurses, or for other motorists to be subject to petrol rationing.


Leading figures in the haulage industry insisted that they had no intention of holding the country to ransom or of interrupting petrol supplies and bringing chaos to the nation.


Sources confirmed, however, that the decision by the farmers’ group to protest at Stanlow and park heavy farm equipment and tractors near the Shell plant had changed the mood among some people.


The original plan by hauliers was to await the outcome of an emergency meeting of the hauliers’ association in Edinburgh tonight, where leading members and officials are to approve a plan of action.


One option under discussion is to liaise with police to organise peaceful demonstrations and convoys of lorries in town centres, or for small groups of protesters to mount pickets outside refineries.


Roger King, the association’s chief executive, said: “We are asking the political parties to introduce a new fuel duty regulator, so that if world prices go up duty is reduced. We would like to see 4p or 5p off the cost of a litre.”


Last night about 20 farmers were still outside Stanlow after starting their action at 5am. 


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