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UK petrol prices take biggest jump in five months as regional inequality grows

The rising cost of oil pushes up fuel prices, but there are big regional differences in the cost of filling up

Petrol and diesel prices

Average petrol and diesel prices rose by 4p and 5p respectively in February, the biggest rise in five months.

A combination of oil’s rise to over $80 dollars a barrel on the global market early in February, and the pound being worth just $1.26, meant wholesale prices for UK supply were pushed up, according to data analysis by RAC Fuel Watch.

With unleaded rising from an average of 140.75p to 144.76p, the cost of filling an average family car rose by £2 per tank. Diesel rose from 148.53p to 153.22p in February adding £2.60 to the cost of the average fill, but the bigger story is the £10 per tank gap between the priciest and cheapest regions in the UK.

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The RAC says the drivers getting the best deals are those who fill up in Northern Ireland, where average prices are 5.6p and 4.6p a litre lower for petrol and diesel respectively. The motoring organisation’s research reveals an 18p a litre difference between the highest and lowest national prices, which are both charged by the Asda supermarket chain. Asda sells petrol at 136.7p a litre in Leeds and Ballyclare, but charges customers a whopping 154.9p at its Parkgate Road store in Chester.

There’s an even bigger difference between the regions for diesel, with the cheapest Tesco price of 142.9p in Northern Ireland comparing unfavourably with Asda's Parkgate Road store price of 163.9p.

RAC fuel spokesperson Simon Williams calls the regional discrepancies “especially galling” and says he is hopeful that the eventual introduction of a fuel monitoring body as recommended by the Competitions and Markets Authority will put an end to the “postcode lottery” of fuel prices. On average, fuel is 5p cheaper in Northern Ireland, he says, with big retailers appearing happy to operate on thinner margins per litre.

“Frighteningly, at the end of February there was an 18p difference between the country’s cheapest supermarket unleaded and the dearest, and for diesel it was 21p,” Williams says. “To put this into a context, it means the cost of filling a family-sized car can be up to £10 more expensive in one part of the country than another. It’s important to remember this is the very same product being charged at vastly different prices based just on location.”

How high are UK petrol and diesel prices compared to the rest of Europe? Click here for the latest figures...

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Current affairs and features editor

Chris covers all aspects of motoring life for Auto Express. Over a long career he has contributed news and car reviews to brands such as Autocar, WhatCar?, PistonHeads, Goodwood and The Motor Trader.

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