Drivers cut back on journeys as fuel costs bite: UK filling station operator

Drivers cut back on journeys as fuel costs bite: UK filling station operator

Fuel sales have fallen as drivers cut back on the number of journeys they make due to higher pump prices, a UK petrol station operator has said.

Ascona Group, which owns 60 UK petrol stations, said the amount of fuel it sold had dropped by 200,000 litres a week compared to pre-pandemic levels.

Managing director Darren Briggs said customers were making £20 to £30 fuel purchases “last a little bit longer”.

The price of Brent crude oil – the global benchmark for prices – has soared in recent months after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine raised concerns of potential global supply issues.

Ahead of the invasion, fuel prices had already been rising after demand increased following the reopening of economies from coronavirus lockdowns.

The Office for National Statistics revealed on Thursday that the UK’s economy shrank by 0.1% in March and said higher prices, including those at the petrol pumps, were “really beginning to bite”.

Ascona Group’s Mr Briggs, which employs about 800 staff, told the BBC that fuel sales volumes had been down by between 6-8% over the past six weeks.

“Pre-Covid we would retail around about 2.8 million litres a week, we’re down to about 2.6 (million),” he said.

“We are seeing our customers making that £20-£30 purchase of fuel last a little bit longer.”

Rod Dennis, of the RAC, said the “cost of living crisis is undoubtedly having a very real effect” on drivers using their cars.

He said the fall in sales chimed with recent research conducted by the motoring group which showed 30% of drivers were driving less often and 21% said they were “deliberately” driving more efficiently to save fuel.

“Unfortunately, as a result of yet more increases in the wholesale cost of fuel in recent days we’re likely to see pump prices rise even further in the coming weeks, increasing the squeeze on households,” he added.

In response to higher fuel prices, earlier this year the government cut fuel duty on petrol and diesel by 5p per litre. It has said the reduction, which will last for a year, will help drivers cope with rising fuel costs.

But Darren Morgan, director of economic statistics at the ONS, said that people had already started spending less in shops and were cutting down on car journeys due to the high cost of fuel at the pumps in March.