Fuel protest - live: 13 arrested for ‘driving too slowly’ after major UK roads targeted

·26-min read

At least 13 protesters have been arrested for driving too slowly during road blocks demonstrating against high fuel prices.

Police said there had been a legal minimum speed limit in place, but a number of drivers had been caught breaching this.

Twelve were arrested in south Wales, while one driver was arrested in Devon after previously being warned about driving too slowly.

Convoys of protesters drove slowly on purpose on fast-moving roads in a call for fuel duty to be slashed on Monday.

The demonstrations affected stretches of the M4 and M5, as well as main roads in Essex, Devon, York and Shropshire.

A bridge between England and Wales was temporarily closed due to disruption caused by the protest, while other drivers faced delays due to the convoys.

It came a day after the cost of petrol hit a new record, with the average litre price spiking at 191.5p on Sunday.

Key Points

  • Thirteen arrests for ‘going too slowly’ in protests

  • Police faced ‘challenges’ over A38 protest

  • Protests takes place across UK including Welsh border, Essex and Devon

  • Petrol hits another new record high as drivers block motorways

19:51 , Andy Gregory

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Or else keep scrolling to read about the day’s events, as we reported them.

04:35 , Stuti Mishra

Good morning! Welcome to The Independent’s live blog with all the latest updates as protesters across the UK prepare to block motorways in a demonstration over high fuel prices. Stay tuned!

Police urge drivers to stay at home ahead of the protests

04:47 , Stuti Mishra

Drivers are advised to reconsider their journeys and remain at home if possible as major roads in various parts of the country face traffic jams on Monday amid demonstrations calling for a cut in fuel duty.

Protests will target mainly three-lane motorways and see slow-downs on two lanes, leaving the fast lane free, according to FairFuelUK founder Howard Cox.

Read more:

Police urge drivers to stay at home as fuel price protests to block major roads

Demonstrators ‘have reached the end of their tethers’, says FairFuel founder

05:05 , Stuti Mishra

FairFuelUK founder Howard Cox says his organisation is not involved in the action, but he is "fully supportive" of the demonstrations so long as they are conducted legally.

Mr Cox told the PA news agency: "I totally support their protest because people have reached the end of their tethers at the moment."

He said other countries had cut fuel duty by more than the UK and asked "why the hell are we not doing it here?"

Mr Cox called for a cut of at least 20p, and warned that protests will continue if not.

He said: "There is an appetite (for such protest). If the Government don't actually deliver on this, I think there's going to be some serious escalation of protests."

Organisers to block the Prince of Wales Bridge and other major highways

05:20 , Stuti Mishra

Gwent Police says protests are expected to take place on the major road networks between 7am and 7pm on Monday.

They said organisers had indicated an intention to block the Prince of Wales Bridge, with the protest starting on the M4 at Magor services, junction 23A eastbound, and junction 20 of the M4 westbound.

Chief Superintendent Tom Harding said he would encourage drivers to reconsider their journey, consider working from home and avoid the area where possible.

Bristol Airport advised travellers to allow extra time for their journeys.

“The protest will likely affect the M5, M4 and the two crossings to Wales. Please allow extra time if travelling to or from the airport.”

Gloucestershire Police said protests are likely to affect the A48, causing travel disruption in the Gloucester and Forest of Dean areas.

'People's day-to-day lives should not be disrupted,' says government

05:45 , Stuti Mishra

Reacting to the protests, a government spokesperson said: "While we respect the right to protest, people's day-to-day lives should not be disrupted, especially on busy motorways where lives are put at risk and resulting traffic delays will only add to fuel use.

"The new Public Order Bill will make it a criminal offence to glue yourself to a dangerous motorway, which sees police spending hours trying to safely remove people."

UK fuel prices touched record high last week

06:10 , Stuti Mishra

The protests scheduled to begin this morning were organised on social media as a result of the outrage sparked by record fuel prices last week.

Figures from data firm Experian show the average price of a litre of petrol at UK forecourts reached a new high of 191.4p on Thursday, while diesel rose to 199.1p.

Fuel prices have risen sharply because the price for crude oil, used to make petrol and diesel, has gone up.

Welsh roads normal so far

07:33 , Zoe Tidman

Traffic Wales has just said there have been no issues along its network so far this morning.

The Prince of Wales bridge crossing between England and Wales is expected to be hit by protests today:

Protests now underway

07:53 , Zoe Tidman

It looks like protests are now underway.

Avon and Somerset Police says it is dealing with a “slow-moving rolling roadblock” on the M4:

Devon and Cornwall Police has also provided updates on the movements of protesters:

‘It was costing us nearly £400 a month just to get to work,’ former HGV driver says

08:00 , Zoe Tidman

A former HGV driver due to take part in today’s protest has spoken to Good Morning Britain.

“We both had to leave work in Bristol because we just simply couldn’t afford to do it anymore,” Vicky Stamper said.

“It was costing us nearly £400 a month just to get to work.”

See from 1 minute in:

Protest also underway in Wales

08:03 , Zoe Tidman

Protesters have left the M4 Magor services near Caldicot in South Wales.

Police have told the convoy of around 20 vehicles they cannot stop and must drive no slower than 30mph.

They are due to head across the Prince of Wales bridge crossing the River Severn into England.

Some protesters have said they intend to meet in the middle and block the motorway.

PA

M4 ‘brought to standstill'

08:18 , Zoe Tidman

For a few minutes both carriageways of the M4 approaching the M4 Prince of Wales Severn Bridge crossing were brought to a standstill by go-slow protests travelling east and west.

Two police motorcyclists rode in front of four vehicles travelling at around 30mph from the Bristol area towards South Wales.

There was a marked police patrol car behind the protestors, followed by dozens of queuing motorists.

A larger convoy of protestors drove over the Severn crossing heading into England from Wales with a large backlog of traffic following behind.

PA

‘It’s costing me £300 a week before I even get to work and earn anything,’ protester says

08:23 , Zoe Tidman

Mobile welder Richard Dite, 44, from Maesteg, South Wales said it is costing him over £300 in fuel to get to work every week due to price hikes.

“It’s costing me £300 a week before I even get to work and earn anything,” Mr Dite told PA news agency.

“My only option soon will be to put the welding gear in the shed and call it a day, maybe go on the doll. Face it at this rate I’ll be on more that way.”

He was joined at Magor Service Station with around a dozen or more other people who have driven this morning across the Prince of Wales Bridge in protest of fuel tax.

PA

Convoy drives across England-Wales bridge with police escort

08:39 , Zoe Tidman

Images show the go-slow convoy driving across the Prince of Wales bridge during this morning’s rush hour.

It was escorted by police:

The convoy has driven across the Prince of Wales bridge (PA)
The convoy has driven across the Prince of Wales bridge (PA)
Drivers held a go-slow protest on the M4 during morning rush hour (PA)
Drivers held a go-slow protest on the M4 during morning rush hour (PA)

Traffic ‘moving slowly’ on Prince of Wales bridge

08:49 , Zoe Tidman

Police say westbound traffic is “moving slowly” on the Prince of Wales bridge amid the protest:

‘Significant delays’ on Prince of Wales bridge

09:02 , Zoe Tidman

Chief Superintendent Tom Harding, of Gwent Police, said: “We are seeing significant delays both east and westbound on the Prince of Wales Bridge due to the planned protest.

“We are seeking to return traffic to normal as soon as possible.”

A38 protest

09:13 , Zoe Tidman

Devon and Cornwall Police say there is another protest going on along the A38, as well as the M5:

Protesters ‘going 11mph on M4'

09:22 , Zoe Tidman

Protesters are reportedly ignoring a police order to go no slower than 30mph on the M4.

A WalesOnline reporter, who is in a passenger seat, says the convoy is down to 11mph:

Another slow-moving convoy sets off along M5

09:37 , Zoe Tidman

Another slow-moving roadblock has set off along the M5 northbound, according to police.

It started at services in Bridgewater:

Rising fuel prices

09:56 , Zoe Tidman

The protests are over fuel prices, which are soaring in the UK.

Here is Ben Chapman, our business reporter, on the situation last week:

Drivers ‘taken for fools’ as fuel prices rise for 38th day in a row

Update on the M5 northbound convoy

10:18 , Zoe Tidman

Petrol prices reach new high

10:25 , Zoe Tidman

The average price of a litre of petrol at UK forecourts reached a new high of 191.5p on Sunday, according to data firm Experian.

The average price of diesel was 199.0p per litre.

PA

BREAKING: Petrol hits another new record high of 191.5p as drivers block motorways

10:30 , Zoe Tidman

Petrol hits another new record high of 191.5p as drivers block motorways

Prince of Wales bridge shut eastbound

10:43 , Zoe Tidman

Police say the bridge has been closed in the eastbound direction amid the protest:

Prince of Wales bridge protest stopped westbound

10:51 , Zoe Tidman

Police have stopped the rolling protest on the westbound carriageway before the crossing, according to PA agency.

Petrol station protest in Somerset

10:54 , Zoe Tidman

There is now a protest underway at a petrol station in a Somerset town:

Gwent Police say ‘driving offences’ taking place during protest

10:58 , Zoe Tidman

Gwent Police warned protesters that it was aware of “driving offences” being committed during the fuel protest.

“We are aware of driving offences being committed during the planned protest on the M4,” a spokesperson said.

“We are committed to increasing the safety of all road users in Gwent and beyond.

“We urge all motorists to drive carefully, responsibly and within the limits of the law.”

PA

One driver arrested by Devon and Cornwall police

11:15 , Zoe Tidman

Devon and Cornwall Police say there was “unsafe driving” during the A38 protest, with vehicles travelling at a “dangerously low speed”.

“One driver ignored a previous warning and has now been arrested,” the force said.

The M5 protest has also finished, it added.

Where else are people protesting?

11:18 , Zoe Tidman

The Prince of Wales bridge M4 protest appears to be causing the most disruption so far today.

There are also protest going on in other parts of the country, including along the M5 around Devon, Shropshire and Essex.

Over in West Yorkshire, police said a “small group” of motorists had gathered in the vicinity of Ferrybridge services but were not causing any disruption so far.

Protest in York

11:31 , Zoe Tidman

Police said the protest near Ferrybridge services in Yorkshire has cleared but there was a go-slow by campaigners on the A64 in the York area.

“We’re working closely with local and regional partner agencies to minimise disruption,” North Yorkshire Police said.

“We have additional officers and support in place to ensure protest activity is lawful and disruption is kept to a minimum.”

PA

And over in Shropshire...

11:46 , Zoe Tidman

Fuel price campaigners have held a protest on the M5 in Shropshire.

West Mercia Police officers were in attendance as protesters travelled in slow convoy on the motorway between J1 and J4 from 7am until around 8.30am.

“Unfortunately the tactics used by some protesters today compromised the safety of other road users,” a force spokesman said.

“Officers gathered evidence during the event and we will take action against those who committed road traffic offences.

“The ability to protest is a fundamental part of democracy, however, when protests start to endanger the public and put the safety of others at risk, appropriate and proportionate action will be taken.”

PA

At least eight arrested near Prince of Wales crossing

11:57 , Zoe Tidman

On the westbound carriageway of the M4 near to the Prince of Wales crossing uniformed police officers were arresting eight fuel price protesters who had been driving vehicles.

A PA news agency reporter at the scene said they were being arrested for driving slower than the agreed 30mph speed limit.

It is understood that protesters who had blocked the eastbound carriageway of the Severn crossing were also being arrested.

Protesters ‘cause chaos’ on Essex main road

12:16 , Zoe Tidman

Protesters have also taken to the A12 in Colchester today:

The demonstration caused “chaos” and queues of up to 10 miles this morning, according to local media.

12 hours of travel chaos?

12:23 , Zoe Tidman

The travel chaos could last for up to 12 hours in some parts of the country.

Gwent Police said protests are expected to take place on the road network between 7am and 7pm on Monday.

Why are fuel protesters blocking roads?

12:33 , Zoe Tidman

Fuel activists blocking motorways across the UK in protest against the price of petrol have revealed soaring costs have forced them out of jobs.

“We had to leave those jobs because it was costing us £380 a week just to get to and from work,” one woman said about herself and her partner.

Read more here:

Fuel protesters blocking motorways ‘forced to give up jobs because of price hikes’

No arrests over M5 protest starting at Bridgwater

12:52 , Zoe Tidman

Avon and Somerset Police have told The Independent there were no arrests made over the slow-moving protest that started at Bridgwater on the M5.

13:08 , Zoe Tidman

Protesters have been seen displaying signs as they slowed down traffic on the A64 in York.

Police confirmed this go-slow protest was happening just before 11am on Monday.

A number of cars were seen driving slowly along one side of the main road, while the opposite side was largely empty.

A slow-moving convoy goes down the A64 in York (Getty Images)
A slow-moving convoy goes down the A64 in York (Getty Images)

“Fuel crisis go slow,” one held out of a car window said.

A protester holds a sign out of a car taking part in a slow-moving convoy along the A64 (Getty Images)
A protester holds a sign out of a car taking part in a slow-moving convoy along the A64 (Getty Images)

Another man poked his head out the window and gave a thumbs up.

A protester gives a thumbs up as cars slow down traffic on the A64 (Getty Images)
A protester gives a thumbs up as cars slow down traffic on the A64 (Getty Images)

M4 protesters say arrested drivers ‘unfairly’ targeted

13:26 , Zoe Tidman

A number of the M4 protesters have said they believe those who were arrested have been “unfairly” targeted by Gwent Police and Avon and Somerset Police.

Drivers of the vehicles conducting a rolling roadblock on the motorway from Magor Services, South Wales, this morning were arrested for a public order offence, breaching the rules requiring them to drive at a speed of 30mph or more.

Passengers of some of the vehicles, who were driven back to the service station in a police van just before midday, said some of the motorists were unable to drive any faster due to the demonstrators leading the convoy driving at about 10-15mph.

PA

What happened at the Ferrybridge protest?

13:46 , Zoe Tidman

West Yorkshire Police has explained what happened at Ferrybridge service station earlier today.

Officers were seen talking to drivers ready to kick off their slow-moving convoy. They had closed off the junction and put down a police stinger.

Police put down a stinger at the exit junction to the service station (Getty Images)
Police put down a stinger at the exit junction to the service station (Getty Images)

Assistant Chief Constable Catherine Hankinson has now said in a statement:

“Police engaged with the small number of protestors who attended at Ferrybridge services on Monday morning to explore possible ways in which they could peacefully demonstrate without negatively affecting the wider public.

“It was clear the proposed ‘go slow’ protest on the network would potentially have caused significant gridlock across the North of England.

“Officers took action to avoid the disruption and ensure the wider safety of protestors and road users.

“The force is committed to working in partnership with all stakeholders including those who wish to lawfully demonstrate, and is happy to discuss matters with them going forwards.”

Police liaison officers spoke to protesters in the car park at Ferrybridge service station (Getty Images)
Police liaison officers spoke to protesters in the car park at Ferrybridge service station (Getty Images)

M5 protest ‘safe and legal’ but ‘challenges’ over A38 one, Devon and Cornwall police say

14:05 , Zoe Tidman

Devon and Cornwall Police have also released a statement on protests in their area, saying M5 ones took place in a “safe and legal manner” but there were “some challenges” with the A38 one.

Superintendent Adrian Leisk said the motorway protest - which went in both directions between Junctions 27 and 28 - lasted for a few hours and ended around 11am.

With the A38 protest, there were reports of “excessively slow speeds” leading to “cars braking suddenly and potentially causing a serious issue on our roads”.

“Officers escorted three vehicles off the road near Buckfastleigh. These drivers were given formal warnings and were advised over acceptable parameters of their protests, including a minimum speed and leaving lanes clear,” he said.

“They were informed that any breach of these directions would lead to an arrest. At around 10.45am we received further reports of unsafe driving on the A38 near Ivybridge.

“One road user, a man in his 50s, ignored the previous warning given to him and was subsequently arrested on suspicion of breach of the Public Order Act and taken into police custody.”

Thirteen arrests for ‘going too slowly’ in protests

14:22 , Zoe Tidman

Gwent Police says it has arrested 12 people in connection with the protest along the M4.

It said there had been a legal notice in place banning demonstrators from driving below 30mph.

“The moving protest started at around 7.00am this morning, at 8.30am four people were arrested with another eight people arrested at around 10.45am,” its statement said.

“All twelve people were arrested for breaching the legal notice by driving at under 30 mph for a prolonged amount of time.”

Over in Devon, police arrested one person for going too slowly after previously being warned.

Insulate Britain shows support

14:39 , Zoe Tidman

Insulate Britain said it supported the M4 protest today:

M5 southbound convoy exits motorway

14:59 , Zoe Tidman

A southbound 30mph convoy on the M5 has now exited at Taunton, according to police.

This had been causing delays along the motorway:

Where are other convoys at now?

15:18 , Zoe Tidman

Gwent Police have confirmed to The Independent the protest in their area - the one which crossed the Prince of Wales bridge - has now finished.

The A64 York convoy has also left the area, according to police:

Frustrated drivers get out cars to play football

15:46 , Zoe Tidman

Frustrated drivers stuck in traffic got out of their cars to play football on the motorway after getting caught up in a fuel protest earlier today.

A video shows a group of three men kicking a football between them on the opposite carriageway of the M4, Thomas Kingsley reports:

Frustrated drivers stuck on motorway get out to play football

Have people been protesting in Scotland?

16:31 , Andy Gregory

People have also been protesting fuel prices in Scotland, with two tractors reported to have slowed traffic to block both lanes on the A92 this morning, causing miles of tailbacks on the Aberdeen to Stonehaven road.

Officers from Police Scotland 's road policing division confirmed that two cars were stopped by officers during a protest near Newbridge in Edinburgh on the M8, Scotland’s busiest motorway, the Daily Record reported.

Others brought disruption on the A9 near Inverness, causing long tailbacks, according to the Press and Journal.

Road Policing chief inspector Lorraine Napier said in a widely reported statement that police were “aware of protests on motorways and trunk roads in Scotland on Monday”, adding: “We urge all road users to drive within the speed limits and at an appropriate speed for the road conditions to encourage safe and responsible road use for all.

“Nevertheless, drivers should be aware that journey times could be longer than normal, especially on motorways and trunk roads, and make travel plans accordingly.

“Police Scotland is a rights-based organisation that puts our values of integrity, fairness, respect and a commitment to upholding human rights at the heart of everything we do. This means that we will protect the rights of people who wish to peacefully protest or counter-protest balanced against the rights of the wider community.”

‘Real problem’ with fuel prices is ‘profiteering by firms’, economist says

17:06 , Andy Gregory

Suggesting that the protests today – with a focus on fuel duty – were “bound to happen”, the director of the Progressive Economy Forum has warned that “the real problem with fuel prices is profiteering by fuel companies”.

“There is an alliance to be found between motorists and environmentalists if oil company profits are made the question,” tweeted James Meadway, a former economic advisor to Corbyn-era Labour shadow chancellor John McDonnell.

New protest reported near Middlesbrough

17:46 , Andy Gregory

There are reports of a fresh protest taking place near Middlesbrough.

Delays in both directions of the A174 are expected while a rolling road block, which began at 4:30pm, is carried out between Ormesby and the A19, Teesside Live reported, citing the traffic site Inrix.

Local radio stations including Heart and Capital reported the same, publishing a snippet from an alleged organiser saying: “We all need to stand together and send a message to the government that we’re not standing for the fuel rises – everything’s going up but our wages are staying the same.

The man said he did not want the protests to cause “too much disruption, but enough disruption to be heard”, adding: “Commuters need to understand we are all in the same boat, we’re all struggling with fuel rises ... and if people don’t protest nothing will change.”

‘Something needs to be done’: Arrested protesters describe impact of rising fuel costs

18:17 , Andy Gregory

Among those arrested in the protests this morning was former HGV driver from Vicky Stamper, a 41-year-old from Cwmbran who said she and her partner Darren had to give up jobs in Bristol because they could no longer afford the fuel.

“We had to leave those jobs because it was costing us £380 a week just to get to and from work,” she told the PA news agency. “I then lost a job two weeks ago because the company couldn’t afford to put fuel in that many lorries so last in, first out.”

Talking before the protest about the disruption it would cause to drivers, Ms Stamper said: “We’re doing this for us and for them. If they want to have a moan, they should join us instead.”

Mobile welder Richard Dite, 44, from Maesteg, South Wales, who was also arrested, told PA: “It’s costing me £300 a week before I even get to work and earn anything. My only option soon will be to put the welding gear in the shed and call it a day, maybe go on the dole. Face it, at this rate I’ll be on more that way.”

Sharon Downs, 46, from Pontypridd was also taken in after taking her HGV on the protest.

Ms Downs, a saddle fitter, told the news agency: “I’m fed up of putting so much fuel in my car. I’m self-employed and people rather not get their saddles fitted now than cover the travel cost because of the fuel hikes.

“It means I’m losing business but also it means the horses are suffering. I’m disappointed more people haven’t come with us today but I think the price of fuel is sadly exactly why there’s not more here ... and needing to be at work.

“But something needs to be done about it, we need the tax on fuel to be brought down before this country is on its knees. We need more protests and we need more people to join in so our voices are heard, and the government know we won’t stand for it any more.”

Drivers being ‘taken for fools’ over ‘inexplicable’ fuel price rises, motoring groups warn

18:48 , Andy Gregory

Last week, the AA warned drivers were being “taken for fools” amid fuel price hikes labelled “inexplicable” by the RAC.

Speaking as prices were shown to have risen for 38 consecutive days even despite fallen wholesale costs, the AA’s head of roads policy Jack Cousens said: “Drivers are being taken for fools by retailers as the cost of fuel continues its worryingly upward trend.”

RAC fuel spokesperson Simon Williams added: “We can see absolutely no rhyme or reason why average forecourt prices are still going up, given that the wholesale price of both fuels has been falling for weeks,” said

“Drivers up and down the country have a right to know why they’re having to pay what they are for fuel, when the costs to retailers right now are so much less than they were a few weeks ago.”

Yesterday, the price of petrol hit another record high of 191.5p, according to data firm Experian.

On Thursday, the competition watchdog is due to announce the results of an urgent probe ordered by business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng into prices at petrol forecourts.

My colleague Ben Chapman has more details here:

Drivers ‘taken for fools’ as fuel prices rise for 38th day in a row

‘Stinger’ caused no damage to vehicles, police say

19:17 , Andy Gregory

West Yorkshire Police has defended using a so-called “stinger” at an earlier protest – a device used to puncture vehicles’ tyres, after criticism from protesters.

In a statement reported by ITV News, a spokesperson said the stinger was one of “a number of tactics” used by officers, adding: “A single tyre deflation device was deployed in the early stages of the protest but not as a main method of traffic control.

“It was not used, no damage was caused to any vehicles, and it has been withdrawn.”

Assistant Chief Constable Catherine Hankinson was reported as saying later that the force had planned “extensively” for the action, adding: “Officers have been conscious of the extremely emotive nature of high fuel prices and financial pain these costs are causing, but also of the significant impact a motorway protest would have on the region.”

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