Fuel shortages have improved since yesterday as the rise in purchases declines, but a north-south split means some areas in the UK will “remain critical” in the next week, the Petrol Retailers Association has warned.
Brian Madderson, chairman of the PRA, said fuel shortages remained a “really big problem” in London and the South East.
And he told Sky News: “We have just completed our survey of over 1,000 sites across the UK and the situation is much better than it was yesterday.
“68% of sites have both qualities, 16% have one type or another, and therefore only 16% – compared to 27% yesterday – have no fuel and are dry.
“It’s much better in the north and Scotland and London and the south east really remain the critical area going forward next week.”
He said the situation is a “big 10-point improvement” over the last few days as the Army prepares to step in and deliver supplies.
Military drivers are out “today training with existing drivers and will be ready to start on Monday and take their own tankers around”, he added.
The Department of Defense confirmed that members of the armed forces are training at the BP oil terminal in Helem Hempstead.
Sir. Madderson warned of “price increases” after reports that some stations had raised prices by up to 10p per. Liters, but said consumers could expect an increase of up to 3p due to the increase in wholesale prices.
It comes as Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the situation was “stabilizing” in most parts of the country and that the military was deployed only as a “precaution”.
Sir. Javid looked at calming fears and told Sky News: “I think it is right that the government, as a security measure, has asked the military to help.
“I think it’s the right move to take to make sure people have all the confidence they need.
“I think it will further stabilize the situation and give more confidence.”
Senior ministers have been concerned about how slowly the disruption in fuel supply is improving, Sky News understands. After a week of quay chaos, motorists are still forced to stand in line for hours at gas stations around the country.
Defense Secretary Ben Wallace announced the plan to bring in the army, saying: “Over the weekend, over 200 military personnel will have been mobilized as part of Operation Escalin.
“While the situation stabilizes, our armed forces are there to fill all critical vacancies and help keep the country moving by supporting the industry to supply fuel to the aprons.”
Cabinet Secretary Steve Barclay – who is responsible for the government’s response to the fuel crisis – appealed to motorists to stop panicking at the pumps
“The government has taken decisive action to tackle the short-term disruption of our supply chains, and in particular the flow of fuel to the forecourts,” he said.
“We are now seeing the impact of these interventions with more fuel being delivered to the forecourts than sold, and if people continue to return to their normal buying patterns, we will see smaller queues and prevent gas stations from closing.”
The government has also announced a temporary visa scheme for nearly 5,000 foreign food and haulage drivers, which was due to expire on December 24, will now be extended until the end of February following criticism of the scheme.
Sir Keir Starmer said the temporary visa regime would not be in place “for several weeks” and that the Prime Minister should, if necessary, remind Parliament to hurry through the legislation to ensure store shelves remain in stock before Christmas.
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The decision to send the army in came when Chancellor Rishi Sunak warned of a shortage of goods that could last until Christmas with “real disruption in supply chains” not only in Britain but around the world.
A petrol station owner, Mike Stayte, told Sky News that deliveries were still unreliable, adding: “It’s peaks and troughs – one day you’re flat or you take three times as much as you normally do.
“The next day you run out of fuel and you sit there and look silly at each other and things like sandwiches and food are not sold because people don’t come in.”