DIFFICULT MOMENTS: Toni Conlon, pictured above, at the Tunbridge Wells station taxi stand, has been a Hackney driver for 17 years in Tunbridge Wells.
A Tunbridge Wells taxi driver said the fuel shortage was an “absolute disaster” for those taking children to school.
Toni Conlon, the only Hackney Carriage driver in the borough, is hired by Kent County Council for its home-to-school transport service, which is often intended for children with special needs.
Due to the fuel shortage, the council has asked these drivers to prioritize elevators for students, which means the drivers might not even be able to afford the fuel if they find it.
The 59-year-old also said the drivers who worked at the airport were also struggling.
She told us on Wednesday (September 29) that she had half a tank and would try to refuel the next day.
âI don’t want to be caught up in hysteria,â said Toni, who has been a taxi driver in the city for 17 years and lives in Shirley Grove in Rusthall.
Speaking about the plight of the taxi drivers, she said: “For those of us who are under contract with Kent County Council, this is an absolute disaster. They have sent instructions or advice on how to get there. way out and asked that if we ran out of fuel, not to work but to prioritize children to get to and from school. “
âIf we don’t work in between, we can’t afford the fuel. So we’re in a Catch 22. We can’t go out and earn money to put fuel in our tanks,â Toni said. .
She said: “If we have fuel we can take the kids to and from school, but if we can’t, we can’t. It’s that simple. Kent County Council asked us to let them know as soon as possible if we can’t do the races and they may need to call other drivers.
âThey said if you think you might not be able to get the kids home in the afternoon, don’t take them in the morning. I’m a parent, I understand. People have done well so far in Tunbridge Wells. It’s a day to day thing. You don’t want to line up to get an egg cup of fuel. Everyone is really, really worried about it ” , she said.
âYou also have the guys who specialize in airport work. They get hit both ways because of the struggle for fuel, and then you have these protesters, Insulate Britain, at junction 3 today on the M25. So they’re stuck in what eats their fuel and they’re not going anywhere. It’s hideous, “Toni said.
Speaking of the scenes at the gas stations, she said: âI know everyone needs fuel for things, but you see ambulances lining up and it’s horrible. I don’t understand why we don’t have not deployed the soldiers. People will continue to panic until they feel they can go to the local gas station and refuel and until that happens people will continue to be mad . “
The impact of the fuel crisis on the community
The fuel crisis showed few signs of abating as the Kent and Sussex Courier went to press yesterday morning, with lineups still at gas stations.
The government had launched its fleet of tankers, driven by civilians from Wednesday and next week by soldiers, to help with fuel deliveries.
Hopes among residents of the panic over purchasing fuel would start to fade yesterday (Thursday) have been dashed.
Through the Courier patch, the regular chase for gasoline or diesel seemed to intensify yesterday, with motorists waiting in queues that started from forecourts and cluttered road networks.
This meant that drivers even after fuel got caught in long delays like at Tunbridge Wells, where queues at Sainsbury’s gas station in Linden Park affected those coming from Nevill Street or the downtown area. city, with traffic jams around the station also reported.
Anna Gill from the St James area was stuck in the rumble this morning (Thursday) and took this photo (below)
She said: “I’ve been sitting here for 20 minutes already, not wanting to use the gas station but to pass it. Avoid if you don’t need fuel, they clearly had a delivery and it’s delaying everyone, from downtown and Nevill Road. “
Dhaval Gandhi of Esso Langton Green kept residents updated several times a day on his fuel supplies and, as the Courier went to press, he expected a delivery last night or today. (Friday)
Yesterday morning on the village’s Facebook page he said he was keeping the ‘smaller one’ for teachers, nurses and other NHS staff, school workers and locals who ‘were really struggling “or those who had health problems.
Our local ambulance service, fire department and police force, all reported to courier operations, had not been affected, with the first two using their own supplies. Tunbridge Wells Borough Council said it had no issues with the fuel situation, including with its contracted ferry service.
And community driving charities in the Courier region, which appointments for people such as those with dementia or are frail, were grappling with the impact of the fuel crisis, especially since Covid-19 booster injections were introduced this week.
Loraine Ash, regional director of the association Community car service based in Tunbridge Wells, which provides safe transportation for people who cannot use public transport. It can be for a variety of reasons, from mobility issues to dementia to frailty due to old age, we were told: “It is not easy. We are very busy as usual and the Covid booster injections -19 started this week as well, for some reason we have to take people to Crowborough for their jabs which uses even more fuel.
âI had two off-road drivers because they couldn’t get fuel, but both now have full tanks. As usual, my drivers are such stars, they go out at stupid hours so that they take fuel or very late at night, “she said.
Lorraine urged anyone who might volunteer for the service to call 01892 540131 as her drivers are currently “in tatters”.
A spokesperson for the South East Coast Ambulance Service said the service has sufficient fuel stocks and “continues to work with our partners to monitor the situation while supporting staff.”
He urged the public to be “sensitive” and “buy only the fuel they need and, as always, be mindful when driving any blue light vehicle seeking to move through traffic.”
Chris Else, deputy director of operational resilience at the Kent Fire and Rescue Service, said they had a “comprehensive resilience plan” in place to ensure their crews and vehicles were always able to respond to emergencies.
âOur vehicles are powered using our own resources and do not depend on supply from the forecourt,â he said.
Kent Police Fleet vehicles are operating as usual, but the force refused to tell the Courier if officers were being dispatched to gas stations to ensure customers behaved on the forecourt.
Imago in Tunbridge Wells is another charity that operates a community chauffeur service. Elizabeth James, Director of Business Services told us: âUnfortunately, the fuel shortage has affected all of our departments within Imago.
âWith Dial 2 Drive, we have found that some of our volunteer drivers rightly say that they are currently not as available as usual. Not knowing how long this will last, they want to save their fuel for their own. own use and future emergencies.
âSo far we have been able to honor all the routes that have already been agreed and booked, but these are the new routes that we are having trouble with. We will of course prioritize medical appointments as we have already done in crisis situations.
“We have also started to contact local gas stations to see if we can have priority with gasoline but to no avail so far. I understand that we are not an emergency service.”
A spokesperson for Arriva, which manages buses in the Courier patch, said: “We are not currently experiencing any fuel supply issues for our Arriva bus services. We have on-site fuel tanks at our depots. and we currently have no problems with our supply deliveries. “
Keep up with Tunbridge Wells, Kent with Mary Harris News.