Protesters campaigning against high fuel prices have disrupted holiday getaways to the south-west of England by driving in convoy slowly up and down a motorway before blockading a petrol station.
The convoy drove at 30mph on three lanes of the M5 north and south in Somerset and the Bristol area on Friday morning as tens of thousands of people headed to Devon and Cornwall to begin summer breaks.
They then blockaded a petrol station in Bridgwater, Somerset, only allowing access for emergency vehicles and essential workers.
By early afternoon there were delays of around almost an hour for people heading south-west, thought to have been caused by a combination of the knock-on effect of the demonstration coupled with normal heavy holiday traffic.
One of the demonstration’s organisers, Mikey Dave, a door supervisor from Somerset, said: “We are protesting at the cost of living and fuel prices. We will show the government that enough is enough, and us, the public, want the cost of living sorted out for everyone.”
After similar demonstrations earlier this month, it was reported that the Home Office wanted police forces to use new tough new powers to stop the fuel protests.
But there was no sign that police in Avon and Somerset were planning to take hardline action against the protesters, and Dave thanked the force for its help making sure the action went ahead safely.
Ahead of the protest, Supt Tony Blatchford, of Avon and Somerset police, said: “Our protest liaison team has been engaging with the organiser so we can inform the public of the likely disruption and help to minimise it.
“Nevertheless, drivers can expect journey times will likely be longer than normal, especially on motorways, which often tend to be at their busiest at this time of year. We advise motorists consider any alternative travel plans available and ensure they are suitably prepared in case they are delayed.”
The M5 protest had ended by noon with those involved turning their attention on the petrol station blockade.
There appeared to be support for the protesters though some complained they risked disrupting people who least deserved it.
On the protest group’s Facebook page one person wrote: “I’m totally behind everyone and something needs to be done, but you’re hitting the wrong people, the ones who will get delayed today are working-class people who have saved all year to take their children on a holiday which possibly they could miss. These company directors won’t be on the M5 or any other motorway today.”
With most schools in England and Wales breaking up for summer this week, the RAC said an estimated 18.8 million leisure trips are planned in the UK between Friday and Monday – the most since the company began tracking summer getaway numbers in 2014.