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Motorway blockades and protests at fuel refineries in France are causing problems for UK lorry drivers – exactly 12 months after industrial action created chaos in Calais.

Dozens of petrol stations near the French port have run dry and Freight Transport Association (FTA) members have been struggling to fill their tanks, visiting several stations before finding fuel and being allowed to buy only a limited amount.

Lorry Driver Tony Henderson, who regularly travels to France from his base in Belfast, said some filling stations were limiting drivers to 200 litres of diesel – his truck holds 900 litres – and there was little information available.

“If you can’t get fuel, you can’t move. And if you have a full tank then you’re a sitting target overnight for thieves. It’s a Catch 22 situation. It would help if the overhead gantries on the motorways gave information but there’s no help at all,” he said.

The problem is expected to get worse as protests over a new labour market reform bill continue, and this weekend’s half term get-away could turn into a nightmare for motorists across the Channel.

Last summer’s action by striking ferry workers cost the transport and logistics industry an estimated £21 million due to delays, cancelled ferry sailing and interrupted Eurotunnel crossings.

FTA Deputy Chief Executive James Hookham said: “The damage caused to our members was far-reaching and this can’t be allowed to happen again. The Port of Calais handles £89 billion worth of UK trade every year – it’s a vital trade route that must be protected.”

FTA Deputy Chief Executive James Hookham
FTA Deputy Chief Executive James Hookham

Following last year’s chaos, FTA devised a five-point plan of measures to tackle the issues which included a call for the Port of Calais and Eurotunnel facility to be declared off-limits to any industrial action.

More strikes and protests are planned for tomorrow and Thursday, with disruption expected at ports, airports and on rail lines. Rail workers have announced rolling strikes every Wednesday and Thursday until July.

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