London: Truck drivers headed towards central London to stage protests against soaring fuel prices, as pressure grew on prime minister Gordon Brown to abandon a planned steep hike in road tax.
Heavy congestion was expected on the main routes into and around London as up to 1,000 hauliers were expected to converge on the British capital in anger at diesel passing the 120 pence per litre mark.
Prices for drivers are soaring as crude oil hits record prices on international markets at around $133, up a third since the start of 2008 and compared with $50 a barrel 18 months ago.
Some motorists, including middle-income families Labour has courted, could be hit by the planned two pence rise, forcing them to pay up to $400 dollars more a year to keep their cars on the road, they claim.
The proposals are likely to give Brown another headache following recent outrage at his abolition of the lowest rate of income tax, that hit the low-paid and forced a government U-turn, plus defeat in local polls and a key by-election.
Organizers of the truckers’ protest hope the convoy will be the largest fuel duty protest in London amid concern that fuel hikes are forcing hauliers out of business.
“Foreign hauliers are entering the UK with cheaper fuel purchased abroad,” said Mike Presneill, from Transaction 2007.
“All we are asking for is that the government introduce an essential user rebate so that we can compete on a level playing field with continental hauliers.”
A delegation will hand in a letter to Brown’s office, calling for the immediate introduction of an “essential user” rebate of 20-25 pence per litre, allowing heavy goods vehicles to claim some of the fuel duty back.
A protest by truckers was held on 29April and saw about 65 lorries converge on central London.