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Motorway fuel prices

20 May 2013 2 Comments

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For as long as this correspondent can remember, it has been a cause of enormous frustration to motorists to pull in to a motorway service station for petrol, only to discover that the prices are exorbitant by comparison with local prices. The dilemma is obvious – pay a horrendous price that sticks in the craw, or drive to the next service station, where the prices are unlikely to be significantly better. However, legislation could be in the pipeline to ensure that motorists are in a position to make an informed decision around where they fill up during longer journeys.

A recent report, highlighted in this year’s budget, has shown that petrol bought on motorways is 7.5p more expensive per litre – the increase is even greater for diesel, at 8p per litre. Moves are afoot to bring in a system similar to that used in France, whereby service stations have to advertise their prices – and the next service station’s, even if they are not owned by the same company – on motorway hoardings, visible well before the driver has pulled in.

Whilst legislation of this nature would probably not necessarily bring prices down to those seen at supermarkets, at the very least it would mean an end to the nasty surprise of pulling off the motorway to discover that filling up is over 5% more expensive. As the Office for Fair Trading have put it: “Drivers who buy fuel on the motorway may have little choice but to pay a higher price if they are running low on fuel and most drivers are unlikely to want to leave the motorway to search for cheaper fuel. The fact that drivers are not able to view prices until they have pulled into the service station makes it particularly difficult for drivers to decide where to buy.” We think that any change which gives more choice to the motorist would be more than welcome, particularly given that fuel prices are already prohibitive.