Fuel shortages are worsening in some parts of the UK, warns the Petrol Retailers Association – as the army prepares to step in to ease the crisis.
Health secretary Sajid Javid said the situation was “stabilizing” in most parts of the country and the military was being released only as a “precaution”.
But Brian Madderson, chairman of the PRA, said fuel shortages remained a “really big problem” in London and the south east.
“In London and the South East and possibly parts of eastern England, if anything it has worsened,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today program.
He said deploying the military to help would improve the situation but would not be the “primary cure”.
Mr Javid looked to allay the fears, however, told Sky News: “I think it is right as a precaution that the government ask the military to help.
“I think that’s the right step to take to make sure people have all the confidence they need.
“I think that will further strengthen the situation and give more confidence.”
Senior ministers have been alarmed at how slow the fuel supply has been repairing, Sky News understands. After a week of chaos in the forecourt, motorists are still forced to line up for hours at gas stations across the country.
Announcing the plan to bring in the army, Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said: “Throughout the weekend more than 200 military personnel will be mobilized as part of Operation Escalin.
“As the situation stabilizes, our armed forces will be there to fill any critical vacancies and help keep the country moving by supporting the industry to deliver fuel to forecourts.”
Office Cabinet Minister Steve Barclay – who oversees the government’s response to the fuel crisis – has appealed to motorists to stop buying panic bombs
“The government has taken specific action to address the short -term disruption in our supply chains, and especially the flow of fuel to forecourts,” he said.
“We are now seeing the impact of these interventions with more fuel delivered to forecourts than sold and, if people continue to return to their normal buying patterns, we will see smaller queues and prevent the closure of gas stations. “
The government also announced a temporary visa scheme for nearly 5,000 foreign food and haulage drivers that will soon expire on December 24, which will extend until the end of February following criticism of the scheme.
Sir Keir Starmer said the interim visa scheme would not run and run “for weeks”, and the Prime Minister should remind Parliament if necessary to rush into legislation to ensure store shelves remain stocked at running until Christmas.
The decision to send in the army came when Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, warned of a shortage of goods that could last until Christmas, with “real disruption to supply chains” not only in the UK but around the world.
A petrol forecourt owner, Mike Stayte told Sky News that deliveries are still unreliable, adding: “It’s peaks and troughs – one day you’ll be flat out or you’ll take three times as long ‘t you usually do.
“The next day you run out of gas and you’re sitting there staring at each other, and things like sandwiches and food aren’t for sale without people coming in.”
Mr Stayte, who owns John Stayte Services in Gloucestershire, said the chance he would receive deliveries was “50/50”.
Applegates Coach in Gloucestershire is stockpiling a week’s worth of fuel, but rising costs from suppliers have left them out of pocket.
Owner Ceri Taylor said: “We quoted for the job 12, six months ago, even a week ago at a fuel rate we thought we would get – and it went up by almost 20, 25 % so we’re running into a loser really. “