Rural petrol stations could be forced to close as fuel demand nosedives

Motorists are being warned that rural petrol stations are at risk of closure as demand for fuel has significantly decreased since people in the UK were told to stay at home.

The Petrol Retailers Association (PRA) says that petrol consumption is down 75 per cent and diesel by 71 per cent, with stations in rural areas being hit particularly hard. It could lead to such stations closing “as sales of fuel dry up and their businesses become unviable”.

The organisation is working to keep ‘a strategic network of petrol stations open across the country’ but encourages motorists to check if their local station is open before going to fill up.

On top of reduced demand, the PRA says forecourts are facing staff shortages as employees go sick, self-isolate or look after vulnerable relatives, as well as the fuel price competition from supermarkets, which are able to offer big discounts because their footfall has been so much higher recently.

The PRA has also called on the government to step in and instruct fuel suppliers to give independent stations the same 60-day credit terms they offer to supermarkets. It warns inflexible delivery loads and credit terms by suppliers aren’t helping struggling independents.

Coronavirus
A woman at GO Petrol Station in Belfast, where the owners have displayed a sign notifying customers that the pumps are disinfected regularly to combat Covid-19, after Prime Minister Boris Johnson has put the UK in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Brian Madderson, chairman of the Petrol Retailers Association, said: “To help freight move and help key workers travel safely and independently through this period of crisis, petrol filling stations must remain open, but this is proving to be a challenge for many filling stations.

“Fuel retailers are having to maintain pump prices at previous levels to avoid suffering significant stock losses. When the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted and high sales volumes return, then we expect to see reductions in retail fuel prices.

“Petrol stations are the Government’s tax collectors, with duty and VAT representing 70 per cent of the pump price. It is in their interests that we remain open for business.”

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