British military personnel in combat fatigues began delivering fuel to gas stations on Monday after the government ordered the military to help offset a severe shortage of truckers, which disrupted supplies for more than a week, resulting in long lines at the pumps as anxious drivers rushed to fill their tanks.
The UK is short of tens of thousands of truckers, due to a confluence of factors such as the coronavirus pandemic, an aging workforce and an exodus of foreign workers following Britain’s departure from the ‘European Union. The problem has helped empty supermarket shelves and shut down gas pumps.
The panic buying of fuel amid the truck driver shortage sparked chaotic scenes in major cities last week with driver queues stacked up. Some have had fights over the pumps while others have accumulated fuel in old water bottles.
About 200 service personnel were deployed on Monday to ramp up deliveries after receiving training at commercial fuel depots last week, the government said.
“As an added precaution we have put in additional pilots,” UK Finance Minister Rishi Sunak told LBC radio.
“The situation is improving now for, I think, more than a week every day… it is improving and as demand returns to more normal levels, there is a strong expectation that things will resolve themselves. ‘themselves. “
Reuters reporters said they saw at least two dozen gas stations still closed in London and southern England. The drivers always lined up in front of the open stations.
As the government says supply disruptions are easing, fuel retailers continue to report local shortages.
The Petrol Retailers Association said about 22% of service stations in London and the South East were still without fuel, and the association’s executive director Gordon Balmer said it might take a week. to 10 days to bring the stocks back to normal.
The association represents approximately 5,500 independent fuel retailers across the country.
“Some of our members tell us they have been without fuel for several days, some for over a week now,” Balmer told Sky News.
British ministers have repeatedly denied that the fuel crisis had anything to do with Brexit and called the shortage of truckers a global problem, although other European neighbors have not experienced queues in gas stations.
“Truck drivers are not a problem in the UK, it is a problem on a European scale and beyond,” Sunak said. “I want people to know that we are doing everything we can to mitigate some of these challenges, where we can make a difference. “
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Sunday he would not return to “runaway immigration” to resolve Christmas fuel, gas and food crises, suggesting such tensions were part of a period of adjustment post-Brexit.
Adding to the sense of chaos on Monday, the British capital was paralyzed by climate change activists who blocked major roads to London.
About 50 activists from Insulate Britain, which wants the government to pledge to provide insulation to 29 million homes, have blocked the city’s busy roads, including the Blackwall tunnel in east London and a bridge on the Thames to the south-west of the capital.
Police said they made 38 arrests.