Drivers face record pump prices

Drivers in Norwich and Norfolk face a hard winter, as pump prices hit record levels in parts of the region.

Increases in recent days have seen drivers paying up to 127.9p a litre for unleaded and 129.9p a litre for diesel.

Analysts blame a perfect storm of increasing crude oil prices, high demand and a falling pound for the price hikes.

And experts today warned there was worse to come, with January's VAT increase and a rise in fuel duty set to add at least another 3.5p to the price of a litre.

The planned increase, which comes into force on January 1, will see almost half the price of a litre going to the government in tax.

At the beginning of this year, unleaded petrol was around 116p a litre, while the official national average, set in May this year, stands at 121.61p for a litre of unleaded.

While a snap Evening News survey yesterday revealed that drivers in the Norwich area were paying slightly less than people elsewhere in the county, Martin Ecclestone, from Manor Garage, in Brundall, said: 'The current fuel prices are ludicrous. We are currently running on vapour because our expected delivery is three days overdue because of the bad weather.

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'The weather hasn't affected trade. The day of the village petrol station is on its way out because we can not compete with the supermarkets offering 5 pence off every litre.'

Petrol prices rose by 0.75p over the weekend, the sharpest increase since May 2008 and the trend is set to continue in the New Year.

AA spokesman Luke Bosdet said: 'It's something, unfortunately, we are all going to have to get used to and adapt to high fuel prices.

'We would urge drivers to shop around as there are variations in prices at the pumps. If you have two cars and one is smaller, then take the smaller one.'

The farming community has also been hit as the cost of hauling crops to processors and retailers rises with each penny going on diesel at the pumps. The price of red diesel, used off-road by farmers, has also risen and tops 50p a litre.

'Farmers are not in a position to pass the costs on. I think retailers will take the rises into account but rural communities are being hard hit,' said a spokesman for the National Farmers' Union.

Consumers are likely to be paying the bill as transportation costs continue to rise and the currenct increases could see the end for some HGV owner-drivers who are struggling to make a living.

'These increases just add insult to injury,' said Kate Gibbs, of the Road Haulage Association.

'Inevitably some owner-drivers will go down. It will be a less than happy Christmas for some and not a very prosperous New Year.

'We have heard from hauliers who are being put on 40-day payment, or even 90 days, and with fuel going up and the weather they have been facing it is getting more difficult.'

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