Petrol pumps Photo:Shutterstock
Fuel shortages had been secretly building at filling stations for more than three weeks before becoming public and sparking panic-buying, new figures show.
Stocks of petrol and diesel shrank first in London and the South East, before spreading to the rest of the country including the North West, the Government data reveals.
Information released this week by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) reveals that average stocks at British forecourts had been below pre-pandemic levels since May and had dwindled steadily from August 30.
Supplies of petrol and diesel at the average forecourt had fallen to just a third of capacity (33%) by September 18 - five days before forecourt closures came to public attention, sparking widespread panic-buying.
Interactive map showing how the problem spread
London felt the pinch first, with forecourt stocks falling to a third of capacity as early as September 10.
In the North West, stocks of petrol and diesel at the average forecourt dropped steadily from 40% of capacity on 5 September to 22% by 23 September - and were at their lowest at just 17% of capacity between 25-27 September, before slowly climbing back up.
The data is based on end-of-day stock figures at about 4,500 filling stations, representing 80% of the market, and is sourced from the Government website.
The Government has this week deployed almost 200 military tanker personnel, 100 of whom are drivers, to provide temporary support to relieve pressure on petrol stations and address the shortage of HGV drivers.
Announcing the move last weekend, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: “Thanks to the immense efforts of industry over the past week, we are seeing continued signs that the situation at the pumps is slowly improving.
“UK forecourt stock levels are trending up, deliveries of fuel to forecourts are above normal levels, and fuel demand is stabilising.”