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Pump prices hit new high in March despite fuel duty cut

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Petrol prices soared 11p in March while diesel surged by 22p a litre – the largest ever monthly increase recorded.

Drivers faced a new record high price of 167.3p per litre for unleaded on 22 March, with the average cost shooting up 11.62p to end the month at 163.28p per litre.

According to the RAC Fuel Watch, the previous biggest monthly increase was in October last year when petrol prices rose 7.43p a litre.

But the petrol price rise was dwarfed by the soaring cost of diesel, rising 22.06p a litre where it peaked at 179.9p on 23 March. All in all, diesel drivers paid an average of 177.29p a litre at the end of the month.

The RAC said the increase is three times the size of that recorded in May 2008 – the previous worst month for diesel price rises, when it rose 8.53p in the month.

The impact of these “almost-daily” price rises is “severe”, according to the organisation, which said drivers are now paying £90 to fill a 55-litre family petrol car, £6.38 more than it did at the start of the month, and £22 more than a year ago.

For diesel drivers, they’re paying £12 extra, up from £85.38 to £97.51. This is £15 more than at the start of the year, and £28 more than a year ago.

A barrel of oil cost $112.99 at the start of March before peaking at a 14-year high of $137.72 on 8 March, two weeks after the war began. While the price fell to $109.98 by the end of the month, rises earlier in the month had already pushed up wholesale fuel prices, causing drivers to pay even more to fill up.

And the price moves came amid the Chancellor’s 5p fuel duty cut announced in the Spring Statement. The RAC said the cut applied to the wholesale cost of fuel and took place on the day when the oil price jumped $6 a barrel.

However, it said that if the duty hadn’t been cut, drivers would have been paying even more for their fuel. It noted that petrol and diesel prices have so far fallen by a “disappointing 3.73p and 2.61p respectively.

‘Current situation is bleak’

RAC fuel spokesman, Simon Williams, said: “March 2022 will go down in the history books as one of the worst months ever when it comes to pump prices – over the 22 years we have been monitoring pump prices as part of our Fuel Watch initiative we’ve never witnessed such extreme rises in prices over such a short period. To describe the current situation facing drivers at the forecourt as ‘bleak’ is therefore something of an understatement.

“Without question, these figures show in the starkest possible terms just how much fuel prices are contributing to the cost-of-living crisis which will be affecting households up and down the country. We know that so many drivers depend on their vehicles – for instance, because of a lack of feasible alternatives – so fuel prices must be starting to have an enormously detrimental effect on people’s finances, especially those on lower incomes.

“Sadly, this Easter – traditionally the biggest getaway time of the year on the roads – is shaping up to be the costliest on record for drivers and there’s very little they can do to escape the high cost of filling up. Seeking out the cheapest petrol stations and driving as efficiently as possible are the best ways of making every pound spent on fuel go as far as possible.”

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