New figures show fuel shortages had built up for weeks in Aylesbury's region before panic-buying started

Petrol stocks were shrinking in Aylesbury's region and London, before spreading across the country.

Friday, 8th October 2021, 11:08 am

Fuel shortages had been secretly building at filling stations for more than three weeks before becoming public and sparking panic-buying, new figures show.

Stocks of petrol and diesel shrank first in London and then, Aylesbury's region before spreading to the rest of the country, the government data reveals.

And this region continues to be hardest hit by the tanker driver shortage, with the Petrol Retailers’ Association revealing that 13% of independent retailers in London and the South East were still dry on Wednesday (October 6).

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(Photo: NIKLAS HALLE’N/AFP via Getty Images)

Gordon Balmer, its executive director, said: “Attempts by the Government to deal with this fuels crisis, now into its 14th day, have thus far had only limited success in London and the South East.

“Much more attention on this issue affecting this region is urgently needed.”

Experimental data released today by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) reveals that average stocks at British forecourts had been below pre-pandemic levels since May and had dwindled steadily from August 30.

Supplies of petrol and diesel at the average forecourt had fallen to just a third of capacity (33%) by September 18 - five days before forecourt closures came to public attention, sparking widespread panic-buying.

This happened much sooner in Aylesbury's South East region when fuel capacity dropped to 33% on September 11.

On September 10 and 12 fuel availability creeped back up to 34% in the South East, but has been below that marker since September 14.

At its worst, forecourt stocks fell to 12% capacity in the South East on September 25.

The situation hasn't stabilised in Aylesbury, at several points in the two week crisis no stations in Aylesbury were stocked with fuel.

When tankers did arrive at Aylesbury garages, queues quickly exceeded an hour long wait time and supplies rarely lasted.

London felt the pinch first, with forecourt stocks falling to a third of capacity as early as September 10.

The data is based on end-of-day stock figures at about 4,500 filling stations, representing 80% of the market.

The government has this week deployed almost 200 military tanker personnel, 100 of whom are drivers, to provide temporary support to relieve pressure on petrol stations and address the shortage of HGV drivers.

Announcing the move last weekend, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: “Thanks to the immense efforts of industry over the past week, we are seeing continued signs that the situation at the pumps is slowly improving.

“UK forecourt stock levels are trending up, deliveries of fuel to forecourts are above normal levels, and fuel demand is stabilising.”