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Petrol shortage intensifies as just 127 tanker drivers from EU apply to help out UK

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It leads to the disastrous prospect of less than half of the 300 visas available to HGV drivers in the fuel industry being taken up in a move that will further pile the pressure onto Boris Johnson and his ministers to replenish supplies. The Prime Minister told BBC Breakfast this morning the haulage industry had been asked to provide the details of drivers who were willing to come to Britain, and it had only received 127 names. He said: “What that shows is the global shortage.

Downing Street has reportedly been left furious over the failure to identify many more drivers after agreeing to the demand by oil companies to fast-track applications.

The latest disaster will also place huge doubt over Government plans to recruit a further 4,700 haulage drivers – which will run from later this month until the start of March – to reduce the pressure on deliveries in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

One Downing Street source said ministers had agreed to press ahead with the emergency measure after being assured by the industry there would be enough drivers to fill the available 300 posts.

But they warned the dramatic failure of the scheme so far will now likely only lead to more delays in restocking service stations and subsequently asking the army to prolong efforts to assist in the process.

There is also growing concern among ministers that having taken the “political hit” for relaxing post-Brexit immigration rules in an effort to manage the crisis, the measures could be to no avail.

A Government source told The Times: “These schemes were launched because this is what industry said they needed.

“But we’re yet to see the numbers promised coming through.”

Rod McKenzie, director of policy at the Road Haulage Association, said: “People don’t want to come unless it is a really attractive alternative.

“You don’t give up a well-paid job for a better-paid job if it will only last a few months.”

There had been hope on Monday the situation at petrol stations was at last improving, with the military starting to make deliveries to forecourts around the country.

Some 100 tanker drivers from the army and air force were joined by a further 100 military staff on navigation and other logistical issues as part of Operation Escalin.

Most are being deployed at terminals that service London and the southeast, including the massive Buncefield oil terminal in Hertfordshire.

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The Petrol Retailers Association, which 5,500 independent service stations, said a fifth in these areas of the country were without fuel, while just over half had both petrol and diesel.

This is a vast improvement from last week, when more petrol stations in part of Britain had no available fuel at all.

Petrol Retailers Association executive director Gordon Balmer said around 86 percent of garages in the rest of the country had fuel and eight percent had run dry.

He added it could take “a week to ten days” to have all locations running with normal levels of fuel.

As supplies arrives at petrol stations, long queues built up as the panic-buying frenzy continued, but Downing Street insisted fuel stocks had gradually improved over the weekend.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “What we’ve seen again over the weekend is a continual improving picture with fuel stocks increasing and more fuel being delivered than is being used.”

Chancellor Rishi Sunak told LBC Radio: “We know there’s enough petrol at our refineries and our terminals and the issue is, we’ve had a very steep demand spike.

“The good news is, it is getting better, so I think every single day since about last Tuesday we’ve delivered more petrol to forecourts than has been taken out, the number of people getting deliveries has increased, the volume of fuel getting delivered has increased.”

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