Just as the great Christmas getaway begins – with thousands of drivers about to make long journeys to be with loved ones – the price of petrol has surged to a new record.

Its average price has risen to a new high of 122.1p per litre – the equivalent of £5.55 per gallon. And we’re just days away from a further double hike in fuel prices. The increase in VAT from 17.5% to 20% due on January 4 will add 3p to the cost of a litre. On top of that, there’s an annual ‘inflation plus 1p’ increase in fuel duty due.

Already pump prices have risen by just over 3p per litre since mid-November. The increases mean that the cost of filling the (50-litre) tank of an average family car has risen by almost £7 to now top £61. The Daily Mail reports that for a two-car family, the average monthly petrol bill has risen from £230 a year ago to £259 today.

Diesel remains some way off its all-time high. But its price has risen by 3p within the past four weeks and now costs on average 126.1 per litre – meaning that a typical 50-litre tank costs £63 to fill. Motorway filling station prices are higher at up to 129.9p for unleaded or 132.9p for diesel.

The Automobile Association has urged the Government to scrap the scheduled tax rise while prices are so high. It has also accused oil companies and petrol retailers of profiteering – charges they deny. AA president Edmund King said two thirds of drivers are reducing the number of miles they travel, cutting back elsewhere to pay for necessary journeys, or both. ‘It is lower-income drivers who suffer first and hardest and that is why the Government should not add further to their misery by increasing both duty and VAT on fuel.’ If current prices persist petrol costs could reach 126p per litre by early 2011.

Stephen Jury


December 17, 2010