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Fuel crisis placed industry two days from paralysis

FUEL SHORTAGES caused by last week's oil refinery blockades were within 48 hours of paralysing large parts of the civil engineering sector it emerged this week.

Some projects reduced working hours while others came close to shutting down as they ran out of fuel. Clients also had to bring contingency plans into action to prevent sites from grinding to a halt.

Blockades of oil refineries by groups protesting at high fuel prices began to lift last Friday, after a week of disruption caused a national fuel shortage.

The fuel crisis is thought to have cost the construction products industry £200M in lost output, according to the Construction Products Association.

Although the situation was improving this week the CPA predicted that most of the £30bn construction products industry will take until the end of this week to recover.

'If it had continued, most of the industry would have been closed down by the end of this week, ' said CPA economist Alan Wilen.

By last Friday some materials firms had suspended work, while others reported a 50% drop in output.

'Everything is reliant on the supply chain, ' said Wilen. 'Some companies were able to continue production, but were running out of space to store the finished goods.'

Problems getting fuel meant that steel manufacturer Corus had problems making deliveries to sites across Britain.

Deliveries just kept going because HM Customs & Excise agreed to waive rules which only allow off road use of low VAT 'red' diesel.

Henry Boot Construction experienced delivery problems to its Millennium footbridge across the River Lune in Lancashire. A lorry transporting bridge masts was unable to get a police escort because patrol cars were too busy escorting petrol tankers to protect them from protestors.

Airport operator BAA had to mobilise its 'rapid contingency plan' so that it could decide which projects to close down if the crisis went into a second week.

Last week concrete suppliers RMC and Pioneer were preparing for delivery suspensions within days of the start of blockades. Deliveries of raw materials from their suppliers dried up and stocks ran low.

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