Chiswick’s petrol stations run dry

Chiswick’s petrol stations have run dry, after a weekend of panic-buying. I visited three petrol stations in Chiswick, one in Mortlake and one in Brentford and only at the Brentford station was there any petrol left by mid afternoon on Monday 27 September.

For several weeks now there have been reports of nationwide supply-chains being disrupted. Nando’s in Chiswick was one of those food outlets which were forced to close for lack of supplies as the post-Brexit shortage of Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) drivers, exacerbated by the pandemic, has sown chaos throughout UK supply chains. Some experts have predicted that disruptions and price rises will continue up to Christmas.

Over the weekend drivers have been queuing for hours to fill their cars at petrol stations that were still serving fuel. Two of the garages I visited had been rationing the amount people could buy.

The crisis has sparked calls from a senior doctor to prioritise NHS workers. Dr Chaand Nagpaul, Chair of Council of the British Medical Association wrote a letter to the Prime Minister saying:

“While the government has said it is putting plans in place to allieviate the shortage of HGV drivers to transport fuel, the results of this won’t be immediate. Healthcare and essential workers must therefore be given priority access to fuel so they can continue their crucial work and guarantee care to patients”.

Images above: Shell garage on Goldhawk Road, ‘No Fuel’ written on an A4 piece of paper at the entrance to the station, petrol pumps with signs reading ‘Sorry out of use’ (Photographs by Matt Smith)

Shell station – 372 Goldhawk Rd, W6 0XF

Approaching the Shell garage on Goldhawk Road looked promising at first as there were a couple of cars parked by the pumps. But as I got closer and the cars began to drive away I noticed a small and easily missable sign at the entrance saying ‘No Fuel’. All the pumps at this station were closed, to the dismay of several drivers who only seemed to realise this when they had already parked up to refuel.

Explaining the station’s lack of fuel, the manager blamed the combination of panic-buying as well as the shortage of HGV drivers.

He told me: “If [demand] was normal up to now then we would have had the fuel – It’s the panic buying.

“Normally every second day we have a delivery because our stock level is directly connected [to suppliers]. If they can see we are low in stock then automatically we get a delivery. But because they have a shortage [of delivery drivers], they couldn’t do that.”

Asked when he thought the next delivery might be, the manager said:

“I haven’t received any messages, so in all honesty I don’t know.”

Images above: queues formed around Chiswick Roundabout, 2/10 of the stations pumps were blocked off by late morning; photographs by Matt Smith

Esso station Chiswick Roundabout – 1 Great West Rd, W4 5QJ

When I arrived at Esso at around 11.30am there were queues stretching around Chiswick Roundabout as well as down towards Brentford Leisure Centre. Only two pumps were open and the rest were either wrapped in plastic bags or blocked by bins or advertisement boards.

The station’s manager wasn’t around when I went in to ask some questions but staff told me he would be be in the branch in at 1.00pm. When I went back an hour and a half later, the two remaining pumps were out of use.

Images above: Bins, signage and plastic bags block off petrol pumps, a makeshift sign put outside later in the day (Photographs by Matt Smith)

Makeshift barriers blocked the empty pumps. Two huge and hastily written signs at the entrances to the station read: “Sorry No Fuel”. Drivers kept missing them though and drove into the station regardless thinking the pumps were free, only to be disappointed and drive off.

Staff told me it had been “crazy busy” over the last few days and blamed panic buying for shortages. They said they weren’t sure when another delivery of fuel would arrive.

Images above: BP garage on South Parade, all pumps were blocked off by cones and red & white tape (Photographs by Matt Smith)

BP stations –  70 South Parade, W4 5LG & Lower Mortlake Road, TW9 2LL

When I arrived at the BP on South Parade there were no queues, because the fuel had completely run out.

When I walked inside a member of the public was questioning a member of staff as to when they’d have fuel available again and he said he had no idea. The station’s supervisor told me the pumps had been closed since the weekend and referred me to BP’s head office when I asked when more fuel would be delivered.

Images above: BP Lower Mortlake Road, out of use petrol pumps (Photographs by Matt Smith)

The manager of the BP petrol station on Lower Mortlake Road, at Richmond Sainsbury’s, said the pumps had been closed since early Monday morning. This was one of the stations which had been rationing its fuel by limiting drivers to £30 worth of both diesel and unleaded, but this hadn’t stopped them running out.

Echoing the staff at the South Parade station, the manager said he didn’t know when more petrol would be delivered as they “haven’t been notified yet”.

At BP’s head office a spokesperson told me:

“I can’t provide information on situations at individual branches but generally across the country the fuel situation has been caused by lack of qualified HGV drivers and the shortages have been exacerbated by the intense demand that has been seen nationwide. We are making the great majority of deliveries and we are working our best [to resolve the shortages].”

Image above: queues at petrol pumps at Esso in Brentford (Photograph by Matt Smith)

Esso – Great West Rd, Brentford, TW8 9AD

Of all the stations I visited today Brentford Esso was the only one still serving fuel in the afternoon. When I arrived staff were busy serving customers inside and the manager was outside directing drivers to the side of the station where pumps remained open. The manager was speaking to drivers individually, informing them about Esso’s fuel ration policy.

Esso have released a statement telling consumers they have introduced a £30 limit on fuel purchases in response to reports of motorists filling up multiple jerry cans at their stations.

Images above: the beginning of the queue to get in the station, the end of the queue (Photographs by Matt Smith)

The Brentford station had some fuel left, but not enough to keep all the pumps working. The station was running at half capacity and queues stretched about half a mile down Great West Road to Brentford’s Toyota garage.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: South Chiswick LTN schemes sent back to LB Hounslow Cabinet to be reconsidered

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