British truckers jam key routes to protest gas prices
LONDON — Hundreds of trucks rolled into central London today to jam a major route into the capital to protest the rising price of fuel.
Around 300 truck drivers honked their horns and parked on a highway on the edge of the city, forcing police to close off a section of road and divert hundreds of motorists during the busy morning rush hour.
Truckers protesting the soaring cost of fuel in Britain — where diesel now costs more than $9 a gallon — called for Prime Minister Gordon Brown's government to lower fuel taxes for trucking companies.
"It's getting to a point of being ridiculous. We simply can't keep pace with the rising costs," Peter Carroll, who owns a 51-truck hauling firm in Maidstone in southern England, told The Associated Press by telephone as he joined the protest in London.
Truckers say thousands of jobs in their industry are in jeopardy.
"Everybody is feeling the impact of the increased cost of living; it is not restricted to one sector," said legislator Louise Ellman, head of the House of Commons Transport committee.
Carroll said hauling companies will press Brown to offer them a rebate of around 25 pence a liter — about $1.85 per gallon — on the cost of fuel. A delegation of truckers was heading to the leader's Downing Street residence on Tuesday to hand in a letter calling for action.
Heavy goods vehicle operators hope to strike a similar deal to the terms offered to bus companies, which are reimbursed some of their fuel taxes, Carroll said.
Protests in London follow demonstrations in France, where fishermen blocked ports last week and disrupted deliveries to two refineries of oil company Total SA.
In 2000, gas station pumps in Britain ran dry when fuel protesters blockaded refineries in a series of major protest that lasted a week.
"People are feeling the pinch, and it's up to the government to step in and help out where it can," said protester John Davis, 49, a trucker and army reservist from Grays, in southern England. "Every time the fuel goes up, tax revenue goes up with it."
Following protests at income tax changes that affected low income workers — and led in part to a stinging special election defeat for Brown's Labour Party last week — the leader has been warned by lawmakers to heed concerns over rising fuel costs.
Some legislators have questioned Treasury chief Alistair Darling's plan to introduce higher taxes for so-called "gas-guzzling" cars, including sport utility vehicles, in an attempt to force motorists to use vehicles that emit less carbon dioxide.
Thirty Labour lawmakers have signed a motion calling for a review of the plan before the changes go into force next year.