Cabbies prepare for fuel shortage

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TOWN taxi firms are having to make contingency plans as panic buying at petrol stations shows no sign of easing.

There have been huge queues at petrol stations across Hartlepool since the Government advised drivers to “stock up”.

It has now changed the advice saying there’s “no urgent need” to top up.

The Shell filling station, on Warren Road, ran out of both petrol and diesel yesterday lunchtime but was expecting a delivery this mnorning.

The union representing fuel tanker drivers yesterday ruled out the threat of strikes over Easter and said it wanted to focus on peace talks.

Unite, which represents around 2,000 tanker drivers, said it retained the right to call industrial action if talks, expected to start next week, break down.

But that news didn’t stop drivers queuing for fuel, and there were delays at Tesco, Morrisons and Asda supermarkets, in Hartlepool, as motorists filled up

ahead of the weekend.

Town taxi boss Kevin Pout, who runs 23 Taxis, has his own diesel pumps at the firm’s base in Mainsforth Terrace and has taken delivery of extra supplies in case the strike goes ahead.

He said: “We have 48 owner-driver cars which use our own fuel. But we also have 80 drivers who use their own cars and they fill up just like everyone else.

“If the worst came to the worst, the owner-drivers could use the diesel we have and we took a delivery which should last us about three weeks if the strike does happen.

“No taxi driver wants to be sitting in a queue for petrol when they could be out picking up fares. Most of the lads are going and filling up before the start of their shifts, because the queues have been crazy this week.

“We will continue to monitor things, but there does appear to have been a knee-jerk reaction after what the Government said earlier in the week.”

Streamline Taxis boss Ray Tweddle added: “I think it has been badly handled by the Government. People have panicked after hearing what they said about filling up jerry cans and things like that.

“The queues have been terrible and it has affected us because drivers want to be out on the road making money rather than sitting in queues not going anywhere.

“Even when they have filled up, the roads are busier around the petrol stations because of the queues so it is all having a knock-on effect.

“Personally, I think the time for people to panic would be when there is an announcement saying there will definitely be a strike. They have to give seven days notice for that, but whether it comes to that, we’ll have to wait and see.”

Drivers have been queuing for fuel across the UK and many petrol stations were forced to close early or ask motorists to limit the amount of fuel they were taking.

The Petrol Retailers’ Association said petrol sales increased by more than 170 per cent on Thursday and Friday while sales of diesel were up by almost 80 per cent.

Unite assistant general secretary Diana Holland said: “We will not be calling Easter strike action as we focus on substantive talks through Acas. We do still retain the right to call strike action for after Easter should those talks break down.”