The army could be deployed to start delivering petrol by the end of this week, despite Boris Johnson insisting the fuel crisis is “stabilising”.
A final decision on whether to deploy military tanker drivers has yet to be made, but Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has said keeping the army on standby was a “sensible, precautionary step”.
PM seeks to reassure drivers
Around 150 military tanker drivers will be available to transport fuel around the UK if required, a senior defence source has said.
The Ministry of Defence received the request for assistance from the business department, known as military aid to the civil authorities (MACA), on Monday (27 September), with the approval granted on Tuesday (28 September).
The troops will be mobilised under a long-standing contingency plan put in place to tackle fuel shortages, known as Operation Escalin.
The preparations to deploy the army comes as the Prime Minister said the fuel situation is “improving” and people should be “confident” to “go about their business in the normal way”, after days of queues outside petrol stations and pump closures.
Mr Johnson has said he will not seek to prioritise essential workers at petrol pumps because things are now “stabilising”.
The PM said he understood the frustration felt by drivers following days of long queues at petrol station closures, but the indications from the Petrol Retailers Association (PRA) is that the situation was beginning to improve with supplies returning to normal levels.
He added that the government is putting measures in place to ensure the entire supply chain could cope in the run-up to Christmas.
Mr Johnson said: “I want to say first of all how much I sympathise with people who have been worried about their journeys, worried about whether they will be able to use their cars in the normal way.
“I know how frustrating and worrying it must have been to worry about a shortage of petrol and fuel.
“We are now starting to see the situation improve. We are hearing from industry that supplies are coming back on to the forecourts in the normal way.
“What we want to do is to make sure we have the preparations necessary to get through to Christmas and beyond, not just in the supply of our petrol stations but all parts of our supply chain.”
Army still on standby
Despite the Prime Minister’s assurances, the government confirmed it was putting troops on standby earlier this week as a “precautionary step” if problems persisted.
A government source said the troops were “still on standby but can now start training now it’s approved”, and could be deployed in the coming days.
All the military drivers are HGV qualified but may need up to three days of extra training to be able to learn how to provide fuel to petrol stations.
With long queues for petrol continuing, some senior Tories have urged ministers to begin actively deploying the military to restore public confidence.
The chairman of the Commons Defence Committee Tobias Ellwood told Sky News: “Simply hoping this situation will return to normal is not a strategy.
“I believe the army should not just be put on standby but in fact mobilised, be seen to be used.
“That will help ease the pressure on shortages of course, it will return public confidence.”
This article originally appeared on our sister site, NationalWorld.