Number of filling stations continues to dwindle

Away back in 2007 we pointed out that the number of filling stations in the UK was declining at the rate of one a day. Unfortunately the decline continues and it becomes more and more difficult to fill up your car.

It used to be that I drove my car until the petrol gauge neared empty. Now, filling up with fuel is something that has to be planned for. Often it means a trip to the supermarket and – because there are so few filling stations left – usually you have to wait in a queue. For someone who hates queues, this is a problem.

Amazingly, we are told, there are now fewer filling stations in the UK than there were in 1912 (albeit, of course, that many stations in 1912 would have had just one hand operated pump).

filling station

There were more filling stations in Britain in 1912 than there are now

The latest Retail Marketing Survey, conducted by the Energy Institute, shows that the number of forecourts in the UK continued to decline over the past year. There are now just 8,480 sites – down from 8,892 outlets in 2010. The dramatic comparison is that in 1967's Britain had 39,958 forecourts.

Key findings of the survey are:
  • There were 8,480 operational filling stations in the UK at end-December 2011.
  • Petrol sales totalled 13.86mn tonnes by year-end – down from 15.01mn tonnes at the close of 2010.
  • Diesel sales totalled 13.91mn tonnes by year-end – rising slightly from 13.06mn tonnes a year earlier.
  • Total 2011 road fuel sales fell slightly to 35.608mn tonnes – down from 36.111mn tonnes in 2010.
  • By the close of 2011, unleaded prices had averaged 133.60 p/l (versus 117.16 p/l in 2010); while diesel prices closed the year at an average price of 138.90 p/l (versus 119.51 p/l).
  • Registered UK vehicles rose from 34.1mn in 2010 to reach 34.7mn by end-2011, with each forecourt supplying an average of 4,088 vehicles.

Site number breakdown by sector in 2011:
  • oil company sites decreased by 209 to 5,310
  • main retailer sites increased by 15 to 906
  • supermarket sites increased by 27 to 1,316
  • smaller retailer sites decreased by 8 to 63
  • other unbranded sites decreased by 41 to 885
  • 711 sites retail auto-LPG – the largest operators are Shell with 213 sites and BP with 207.

The five largest oil company operations by number of branded forecourts were (2010 figures in brackets):
  • BP: 1,178 (1,174) up 4
  • Esso: 890 (923) down 34
  • Shell: 845 (886) down 41
  • Texaco: 840 (897) down 57
  • Total: 782 (833) down 51

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