Petrol filling stations could be forced to close because the financial pressures caused by coronavirus will render them unviable, the PRA has warned. It came as figures released by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) showed a massive fall in fuel sales.

A survey covering nearly 60% of all petrol filling stations (PFS) across the UK, including supermarkets, oil company and independent sites, showed petrol consumption was down by 75% and diesel by 71% compared with the daily average prior to the coronavirus outbreak.

Brian Madderson, chairman of the PRA, said: "To help freight move and help key workers travel safely and independently through this period of crisis, PFS must remain open, but this is proving to be a challenge for many."

He warned that many petrol stations will have to close in the coming weeks, as sales of fuel dry up and their businesses become unviable. Such sites would have to furlough staff and maximise their use of government aid available.

The BEIS survey also confirmed that more than 60% of PFS had full storage tanks of both grades. This fuel would have been bought by independent stations days or weeks earlier at much higher wholesale prices than they could obtain today with Brent Crude prices collapsing to an 18-year low of just US$20 per barrel.

Madderson added: "The situation will particularly impact PFS in rural areas."