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Petrol soars to a 20-month high and motorway services charge £1.50-a-litre

As lockdown measures eased this week and Britons can return to places of work, plan staycations and visit friends and family indoors for the first time in 2021, drivers are being met by 20-month-high fuel prices as the cost of petrol continues to surge.

Analysis by the AA reveals that unleaded jumped by more than 2p-a-litre – the equivalent of £1 a tank – in the last month, taking the average price for the UK to 128.43p-a-litre for the first time since 10 September 2019.  

And motorists who fill up on the motorway are being stung by some retailers with astronomical charges at the pumps. Some profiteering service station retailers on busy routes have pushed petrol prices above £1.50-a-litre, figures provided to This is Money reveal.

Drivers paying the price for their freedom: Petrol prices have hit a 20-month high this month – and some motorway service filling stations are charging over £1.50-a-litre for unleaded

The AA’s latest report shows that the fuel prices have gained monthly for more than half a year, though retailers have grudgingly closed the petrol-diesel price gap from 2.8p to 2.4p between mid-April and mid-May. 

The cost of diesel is also up to an average of 130.81p per litre, which is the highest it’s been since 4 February 2020. 

That’s despite diesel wholesale costs being lower than petrol since the last week of March into the first week of May – a trend that isn’t being reflected at filling stations.

Supermarket petrol is between 4p and 7p per litre cheaper than it is at other retailers, with Asda the most affordable at 123.05-a-litre on average this week. 

The AA says national prices have jumped in the last two weeks as oil producers have increased exports as nations around the world ease their Covid restrictions. 

‘Oil’s return to $70 a barrel, last seen in May 2019, has propelled UK pump prices upward once more,’ explains Luke Bosdet, the AA’s fuel spokesman. 

‘They had stabilised for a fortnight in late April, but OPEC’s oil exports have jumped by one million barrels per day so far in May. 

‘Meanwhile, investment banks and other speculators are talking up the price, one predicting the biggest jump in oil demand in history.’

Analysis by the AA reveals that unleaded jumped by more than 2p-a-litre - the equivalent of £1 a tank - in the last month, taking the average price for the UK to 128.43p-a-litre for the first time since 10 September 2019

Analysis by the AA reveals that unleaded jumped by more than 2p-a-litre – the equivalent of £1 a tank – in the last month, taking the average price for the UK to 128.43p-a-litre for the first time since 10 September 2019

It means those who have scaled back their driving in lockdown are in for a nasty surprise when heading to filling stations for the first time in months this week.

Prices are 14p-a-litre – or £7.70 a tank – more expensive than they were when the first national lockdown was lifted last summer, the AA’s database shows.  

Families making the most of the newly eased restrictions by booking staycations outside of England will likely see the cost of petrol and diesel fall when they cross borders.

The AA says it has seen online interest in AA-rated accommodation in Wales and Scotland rise by 80 per cent in the last fortnight – as opposed to 40 per cent for other parts of the UK – as many look to book holiday to escape their homes for the first time in months.

For those travellers driving from London and the South East, they can enjoy pump prices averaging between 2p and 2.5p-a-litre less than what they’d pay closer to home. 

Some profiteering service station retailers are charging 22p more than the national average for a litre of petrol, the AA told This is Money

Some profiteering service station retailers are charging 22p more than the national average for a litre of petrol, the AA told This is Money

Petrol prices at motorway services hit £1.50-a-litre 

Out on the motorways, pump prices this week vary between the relatively cheap and the astronomically expensive, the AA’s analysis reveals.   

For instance, drivers using the M4 are currently seeing a huge difference in petrol prices. They can range from 130.9p and 148.9p-a-litre for unleaded, while diesel varies between 134.9p and 151.9p depending on where motorists fill up.

Heading into the South West, the southern end of the M5 has two service areas offering petrol at 134.9p-a-litre and diesel at 138.9p. But at other motorway forecourts along that route, petrol costs 148.9p and diesel 151.9p.

Moto is also advertising a trial of cheap motorway fuel at Lancaster on the M6 (petrol 127.9p, diesel 132.9p) and at Frankley on the M5 (petrol 130.9p, diesel 132.9p). 

However, at the opposite end of the spectrum, the M25 – as usual – stands out as consistently the most expensive for motorway fuel.

A review of motorway service station fuel prices by the AA found that Clacket Lane services on the M25 is charging 150.9p for a litre of petrol, making it more than £11 more expensive to fill up than the average price in London

A review of motorway service station fuel prices by the AA found that Clacket Lane services on the M25 is charging 150.9p for a litre of petrol, making it more than £11 more expensive to fill up than the average price in London

South Mimms services, also on the M25, is charging sky-high prices, with unleaded at 149.9p-a-litre

South Mimms is among the most expensive places to fill up with diesel, costing drivers a staggering 152.9p per litre

South Mimms services, also on the M25, is charging sky-high prices, with unleaded at 149.9p-a-litre. It is also among the most expensive places to fill up with diesel, costing drivers a staggering 152.9p per litre

Petrol is being sold for as much as 150.9p-a-litre and diesel as high as 152.9p-a-litre at Clacket Lane and South Mimms service stations respectively. 

It means petrol on the M25 can be almost 22.5p per litre more expensive than the national average (£12.38 more to fill a 55-litre fuel tank) – and 21p more than the London average (£11.55 pricier per tank).

‘If holiday car travellers think that pump prices near home are high, wait until they take to the motorways,’ Bosdet told This is Money. 

‘However, there are some excellent fuel prices to be found on major routes – the problem is knowing where they are.

‘And seeing as the default setting for most car owners is to avoid fuel prices on motorways unless desperate, the bad reputation plays against competitive forecourts that are breaking the mould. 

‘The AA says to drivers: there are oases of cheap motorway fuel. Keep an eye out for them.’ 

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