Mayhem across city as drivers race to the petrol pumps
- Credit: Denise Bradley/ Sarah Burgess
It was chaos on city roads today after drivers panic-bought petrol amid fears of running on empty.
Huge queues for tank refills were spotted at garages across Norwich as a national shortage of HGV drivers began to wreck fuel supply chains.
While things were relatively quiet first thing, by lunchtime Morrisons at Riverside had shut off half its pumps as stock started running dry and queues tailed back to the roundabout in Albion Way.
A member of staff, who did not want to be named, said at some point they would run out completely and have to start turning people away.
Exhausted, he said things had turned "manic".
The BP garage in Plumstead Road also saw lengthy queues, as did Sainsburys in Queen's Road and the Tesco Extra in Blue Boar Lane.
Buses saw the fallout of the traffic chaos, with Konectbus and FirstBus reporting delays because of petrol-hungry cars clogging up road space.
Anne McCrudden was one of the dozens waiting in her car at Morrisons to fill up.
She said: "I'm here because everyone else is filling up and I'd absolutely hate to run out.
"I don't want to be selfish, but what if there was an emergency and I was stuck on my own without any petrol?"
Yvonne Ridge said she had to drive her daughter to Manchester at the weekend and needed enough fuel for the journey there and back.
She explained: "I'm here out of necessity, really."
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Carl Watton bemoaned the entire saga as "ridiculous".
He added: "We've learned nothing in the two years since everyone was stockpiling bog roll.
"I'm sure if we were all sensible there'd be no issue. But here we are again, in the exact same situation we were at the beginning of the pandemic."
Not all garages were suffering the same fate, however.
Jet petrol station in Rose Lane was comfortably calm both this morning and later in the afternoon.
Manager Ramanathan Uthayarajan said he'd had a delivery of 40,000 litres just two days ago and was confident stocks would last.
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He said: "I'm not worried about running out of fuel, although my garage is definitely busier than usual. The shortages I'm facing relate to everything else: water bottles, alcohol, fizzy drinks.
"Whatever is going wrong at Shell, BP and Tesco isn't happening here."
HGV driver Maciej Piotrowiak had been up travelling cross-country since 2am.
He explained: "The problem is there's not enough people willing to drive HGVs. It's unsociable hours and long shifts - and there's Brexit.
"I know people who used to come to work in the UK for three weeks at a time - they can't do that anymore. Visas are too expensive."
Regular Jet customer Carol Lowe said she hadn't come out especially to fill up her tank but that news of the shortages had left her uneasy.
Meanwhile customers David Lipscombe and Adrian Zsigmond said they were there to simply take what they needed.
Mr Lipscombe said: "I'm not worried at all about fuel running out. And I'd rather have the money in my pocket than sitting in my tank."
What have our MPs said?
Norwich South MP Clive Lewis stressed that there was no shortage of petrol or diesel in the UK.
He said: "We're seeing the consequences of a profound shortage of HGV drivers because of systematic failures to deal with low pay, poor working conditions and increasing ill health and stress.
"Brexit and Covid have accelerated a situation in which more and more drivers are returning to their home countries, retiring early or just walking away from their trucks.
"We need to take every opportunity to accelerate decarbonisation and get to net zero emissions by 2030 at the latest."
Meanwhile Norwich North MP Chloe Smith urged people in Norwich to avoid panic buying.
She explained: "There's no actual shortage of fuel.
"There are a number of issues facing several industries across the UK, which the government acknowledge and is taking action on.
"I'll be following the situation closely in Parliament."