7 photos show chaos at gas stations in the UK, where a fuel shortage has led to mile-long queues, people bottling petrol, and one man riding a horse past the pumps

Lines of cars amid UK fuel shortage
UK fuel shortage.

  • An acute fuel shortage has caused widespread panic for drivers in the UK.
  • Footage shows mile-long queues and customers bottling petrol out of anger and desperation.
  • Insider rounded up key scenes of the chaos happening across the country.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Thousands of gas stations in the UK are facing an acute lack of fuel because of a post-Brexit shortage of truck drivers and panic-buying from consumers.

The supply of drivers has diminished as a result of changes to visa rules, causing tens of thousands of European drivers to leave Britain.

To make matters worse, COVID-19 lockdown restrictions spawned a backlog in training and tests for new lorry drivers to get their licenses, Insider’s Mia Jankowicz reported.

The Petrol Retailers Association (PRA), which acts for more than 5,000 of the UK’s 8,000 gas stations, on Sunday reported that two-thirds of its stations were out of fuel. The rest of them were “running out soon,” per Reuters.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is considering sending in the military to help deliver gas and ease the shortage. But that isn’t enough to solve the issue, the PRA warned, according to The Independent.

Amid the chaos, concerned drivers have resorted to peculiar and desperate panic-buying behavior, and in some cases, people have become violent at gas stations, per a video reported by The Independent.

Insider rounded up the latest scenes of desperation plaguing the country.

Mile-long queues have built up outside gas stations across London as panicked drivers stock up amid the shortage.

Motorists queue for fuel at a petrol station in Ashford, Kent.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps called the fuel shortage a “manufactured situation” created by a leak to the media by a road haulage association.

Motorists have faced several calls to stop panic-buying petrol. 

In a plea to the public, Johnson said: “I would just really urge everybody to just go about their business in the normal way and fill up in the normal way when you really need it and things will start to improve,” Independent reported

Some people spent time filling up jerry cans with fuel.

A customer fills a fuel container at a fuel filling station in Leyton, east London
A customer fills a fuel container at a gas station in Leyton, east London.

Motoring retailer Halfords said sales of jerry cans soared 1,656% last weekend due to panic buying, iNews reported.


Others are packing their cars with cans of fuel.

Motorists fill up their vehicleâs with fuel at a Sainsbury's supermarket petrol station in North West London
Motorists fill up their vehicles with fuel at a Sainsbury’s supermarket petrol station in North West London.

The panic frenzy has caused several oil companies to ration petrol by imposing purchasing limits.

A garage owner’s sign notifying customers of a £30 limit to their fuel purchases is displayed at a Texaco franchise garage in Helston, England.

British retailer EG Group, which owns 400 service stations in Britain, has imposed a £30 limit on fuel purchases per customer due to the “unprecedented customer demand” in the UK, Reuters reported

One man rode his horse past a queue of cars at a gas station, singing “I don’t need petrol because he runs on carrots.”

A post shared by Gus Lee-Dolphin (@gusleedolphin)

British motoring association AA said there has been a spike in the number of people putting the wrong type of fuel into their cars amid the rush.

A man carrying containers at a Tesco Petrol Station in Bracknell, Berkshire.
The AA has a fleet of specialist “fuel assist” vans to deal with misfuelling incidents, The Guardian reported.

The AA had recently reported 250 such incidents compared with 20 to 25 on an average day, according to a Guardian report.

Motorway signs indicated to drivers which fuel was available at service stations.

Lorries drive past a fuel warning sign on the M1 motorway amid a fuel shortage, in Luton
Lorries drive past a fuel warning sign on the M1 motorway amid a fuel shortage, in Luton.

Big oil companies, including BP, Shell, and Esso have issued a joint statement saying they expected demand to return to normal levels “in the coming days.”

A Shell garage employee holds a sign on the side of the road informing a queue of traffic that they do not have unleaded petrol
A Shell garage employee holds a sign on the side of the road informing a queue of traffic that they do not have unleaded petrol.

“As many cars are now holding more fuel than usual, we expect that demand will return to its normal levels in the coming days, easing pressures on fuel station forecourts,” various oil companies said in a joint statement.

“We would encourage everyone to buy fuel as they usually would,” they added.

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US says fuel supplies should be ‘back to normal’ by the weekend as key pipeline restarts after cyberattack

GettyImages 1232845374
Signs reading “out of gas” cover screens on pumps at a gas station on May 12, 2021 near Four Oaks, North Carolina. Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images

  • The Colonial Pipeline began resuming service Wednesday evening.
  • With that, the US Secretary of Energy said “things will be back to normal” by the end of the weekend.
  • The pipeline, which transports 45% of the fuel used by the East Coast, shut down last week following a cyberattack.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The Colonial Pipeline is back up and running with full operations expected by this weekend, which should bring gas shortages in part sparked by panic buying to an end.

The Colonial Pipeline, the top US fuel pipeline, restarted Wednesday evening, and reported “product delivery has commenced in a majority of the markets we service.”

The successful restart “should mean things will return to normal by the end of the weekend,” US Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm said on Twitter Thursday.

“Following this restart, it will take several days for the product delivery supply chain to return to normal,” the company said Wednesday evening. “Some markets served by Colonial Pipeline may experience, or continue to experience, intermittent service interruptions during the start-up period.”

The pipeline shutdown operations last week after Russian ransomware group DarkSide hacked the company’s systems and demanded money.

The company took the pipeline – which runs from Texas to the New York -area and supplies 45% of the East Coast’s fuel -offline following the attack. A private cybersecurity firm hired by Colonial and the federal government are probing the incident.

Colonial has “made substantial progress in safely restarting our pipeline system,” the company said Thursday in a statement. “By mid-day today, we project that each market we service will be receiving product from our system.”

A few remaining segments of the line will begin operating at 12 p.m. ET, the company said.

Amid the shutdown, some people resorted to panic-buying fuel. Long lines stretched around gas stations, more than 1,000 stations in the US ran dry, and the price of gas surged. Most of the shortages remained on the east coast, especially in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, a GasBuddy analyst reported.

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