End of road for hard-up drivers
New figures published today showing that petrol sales are at their lowest since records began are the firmest evidence yet that motorists are being priced off the roads.
Rocketing fuel bills hit motorists in the rural West particularly hard as they face the double whammy of longer journeys to work and shops, and have generally inadequate public transport alternatives.
In the 23 years the Government has publicly tracked petrol sales, the January figure of 1.465 billion litres is the lowest recorded.
It is 14 million litres down on the previous all-time low set in March last year and nearly 100 million below December’s consumption of 1.564 billion.
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The AA said UK diesel consumption also fell in January, down to 1.923 billion litres for cars, haulage and other uses.
However, this is still higher than the all-time lows of January 2009 and 2010, when widespread and extended periods of heavy snow cut road use.
AA president Edmund King said: “Although we had a disruptive period of snow between January 18 and 25, the impact of the weather was nothing like that suffered during the January of 2010.
He made his remarks as the AA published research into average fuel prices. It showed the plunging pound and stock market speculation are driving another sharp hike in the cost of petrol. After surging 5p a litre over a month, the price of petrol at the pumps has gone up a further 1p in the last five days, the AA said.
It revealed that the average cost of petrol in the UK is now 138.32p a litre, with diesel having risen 4.78p from its mid-January price to stand at an average of 145.10p.
The latest figures show that petrol has risen 6.24p a litre since early January, adding £3.12 to the cost of refilling a typical 50-litre tank.
The AA said filling up the 70-litre tank of a Ford Mondeo now costs £4.37 more than six weeks ago. A two-car family’s monthly petrol cost has risen £13.25 with the current surge.
It added that drivers have been caught between the pincers of a pound weakened against the dollar and soaring wholesale prices.
The figures come a day after an Auto Trader survey showed drivers fear the cost of motoring could double to as much as £4,580 a year over the next 10 years. As many as 71 per cent of the 3,495 polled reckoned it would be difficult for young people to buy a car in the future.
More than half of 17-24 year olds believed there would be a decrease in the number of young people learning to drive over the next decade.
Mr King said: “This is the third 10p-a-litre wholesale price surge in 11 months, given extra vigour by currency speculators betting against the pound.”
He urged Chancellor George Osborne to recognise the difficulties faced by motorists in the forthcoming budget.
Meanwhile, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander gave vague hope to campaigners on the mainland that a fuel discount scheme available on some UK islands could be rolled-out to remote areas.
On a visit to Cornwall Mr Alexander said he was thinking about lobbying the European Commission over the issue.
It is nearly a year since the 5p off a litre of fuel discount scheme in the Scilly Islands was unveiled and if Mr Alexander is successful in Europe, remote parts of the West Country could, in the long-term, benefit.