UK government ready to deploy troops to drive tankers amid fuel crisis
Andrew Wilson
A fuel tanker at a petrol and diesel filling station in Begelly Wales September 28, 2021. /Reuters/Rebecca Naden

A fuel tanker at a petrol and diesel filling station in Begelly Wales September 28, 2021. /Reuters/Rebecca Naden

For a fifth day, drivers in parts of the UK are waking up to a fuel emergency.

From first light, long lines of stationary cars have appeared outside petrol forecourts, particularly in cities, with motorists apparently unimpressed by the government's insistence there is no fuel crisis.



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The government has quietly acknowledged that troops are being readied for deployment in the next couple of days but the overall message from Downing Street is that it's the same the world over and this will pass soon.

"All we want to do is make sure that we have all the preparations necessary to get through to Christmas," said Prime Minister Boris Johnson in his first appearance since the stations ran dry. "We've seen the global economy really sucking in a huge amount of demand at the moment."

It was left to Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng to mention that soldiers would soon be driving the petrol lorries.

Union leaders continue to press the government to step up the response and allocate measures for key workers to be able to fill up.

"It's getting to a point where I might not be able to make my shift," said one woman in a pre-dawn queue. "So that's not ideal when you work in a hospital or anywhere, really."

Howard Cox from the Fair Fuel campaign says it's all about drivers. "The only thing we can do at the moment to get back to some sort of normality, is to get the 100, 200 military drivers to actually start delivering to forecourts because all of the tankers, refineries are full up with diesel and petrol ready to go," he said.

A temporary visa offer for 5,000 drivers from Europe is in but a group of Polish truckers by the roadside today seemed less than impressed. "No thank you, Mr Prime Minister," said 35-year-old Jakub Pajka. "I do not think anyone would want to relocate for three months just to help the British sort out their Christmas."

The official position is that time will gradually resolve the situation. One estimate is that it will take about a week for the entire country to fill up and then demand will drop.

The Petrol Retailers Association (PRA) has said signs are encouraging, with 27 percent of its 5,500 stations out of fuel on Wednesday compared with two-thirds running dry on Sunday.

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