UK petrol consumption has fallen compared with a year ago, despite it being 14ppl cheaper.

UK fuel consumption figures released by HM Revenue and Customs show that petrol consumption flat-lined at around 1.475 billion litres a month from May to July.

This is lower than last summer when the petrol price averaged as much as 131.70ppl, compared with a maximum of 117.28ppl this summer.

Despite petrol pump prices 11% lower than a year ago and below 2008’s 119.70ppl peak, car traffic remains below 2007 and 2008 pre-financial-crisis levels. There is more car traffic on motorways and small rural roads, but 5% less on urban A-roads (42bn versus 40bn vehicle miles), 2% less on rural A-roads (70.6bn versus 69.2bn vehicle miles) and 4.5% less on urban minor roads (56.2bn versus 53.6bn vehicle miles) than the peaks in 2007.

“With the sun and heatwaves in June and July, the UK looked set for a bumper motoring summer. But, with UK petrol consumption at a level normally associated with winter months, the season barely got going. This is astonishing, particularly with petrol 14ppl cheaper than a year ago,” says Paul Watters, the AA’s head of motoring policy.

“Perhaps it is other budgetary pressures on families, although the Office of National Statistics last week reported ‘the longest period of sustained year-on-year growth’ in retail sales. That leaves the scourge of the sudden surge at UK fuel pumps, following yet another leap in petrol prices – from a low of 106.39p in February to 117.28p in late June.”

“If UK pump prices fall to £1 a litre, and it’s a big ‘if’, there is no guarantee that this will bring about a last-minute revival in UK summer motoring. The only thing that UK drivers know they can rely on is that, for every crash in pump prices, there will be a surge afterwards – hardly encouragement to use the car more.”