Digging deep into reserves

In the October issue I wrote about compensation (or lack of) when they come and dig the roads up, which prompted a call from Margaret, who is the company secretary at Tenybanc Service Station at Ammanford in Carmarthenshire. Essentially it’s a story I defy anyone to top.

The filling station is at the last turn-off of the M4 with lots of passing traffic. Unfortunately between January and July that’s what the traffic did. It passed. Roadworks went up one side of the street for three months and then crossed over and came back down the other side, taking another three months. In the process, the manholes were left higher than the roads, leading to flooding and the contractors coming back to lower them all. More disruption.

"The boss was nearly bankrupted," Margaret told me. I had a long chat with the boss, John Brayley, whose accountant reckons he lost £40,000 in profits over the period. John did not sit by watching this happen. He went to his local MP who arranged a meeting with the second-in-command of the Welsh Assembly.

Adding injury to insult, both John and Margaret were hurt, literally tripped up by debris and wires. Margaret did some bleeding and John broke his thumb and tore ligaments in his ankle. (The contractors told him these injuries were worth only £3,000. John will be seeing them in court.)

John had rented out part of his space to a chap selling pizzas who went out of business as a consequence of the road works.

"At one point in about one-third of a mile, we had eight to 10 traffic lights," says John. "Of course people in the queue didn’t want to stop." Eventually the roadworks came to an end. John switched from Murco to Texaco, put up the red and black dragon flags and set to work. He is now slowly clawing back his business. I hope, in the future, to bring you updates on his compensation claims.

£5k damage in less than three minutes

Those of you who read online may have seen our newsletter report about a particularly quick and clever gang of thieves who knew how to hotwire the electric shutters on a Gloucestershire forecourt which enabled them to get into the shop and make off with £2,500-worth of cigarettes, causing damage worth about the same amount again.

Manager Mike Stayte of John Stayte Services said it took the robbers less than three minutes to get in and out with the cigarettes from his Fromebridge Filling Station, on the A38 at Whitminster. They also smashed the front door along with the tobacco cabinet.

"They knew exactly what they were doing," says Mike.

Despite the forecourt having 16 CCTV cameras and John Stayte Services offering a £1,000 reward, the police hadn’t caught the crooks at the time of writing.

"We’ve got lovely pictures of people in balaclavas," adds Mike. "So although they were caught on CCTV they were wearing masks and baseball caps so could not be identified."

The forecourt was closed when the attack happened in the small hours but they opened for business as usual at 6am on the same day. You can imagine the mess they had to clear up.

Mike is a magistrate and is so fed up with this sort of occurrence that he has not only personally warned all the other forecourt operators in the area, but wants to pass it on to all Forecourt Trader’s readers too.

And he now has remote-controlled shutters so if you are in the market for some new onesperhaps you should do some risk assessment first?

Going back to the future

We’ve brought you alternative fuels made from all sorts and we’ve brought you electric cars and hybrids. There doesn’t seem much left but when Jaguar gets involved you know there’s a serious side to all this. Based on the new, lightweight, XJ saloon, the Jaguar Limo Green features an advanced electric drive motor, battery pack and a small auxiliary power generator instead of the usual Jaguar diesel and petrol engines. Limo Green is targeting CO2 emissions of less than 120g/km, fuel consumption bettering 57mpg and a top speed of 112mph. At 50mph, on electric power only, it will waft along in silence for nearly 30 miles. The amount of unleaded petrol used? Zero. The battery pack can be charged up overnight using domestic supply. Apparently the cost of the component parts means it won’t be on the market for a while but they’re working on it.

Around and around again

Michael Exelby emailed from Exelby Services in Londonderry about the parable I related in my October column which concerned a 100 note which got handed round a town paying off the butcher, baker and candlestick maker before being returned to its rightful owner. He writes: "Good story but if you study this tale carefully you will notice that, at the end, the hotel proprietor is still 100 down on the deal." Ah yes, well I did point out that nobody actually made anything. However, the hotelier didn’t really lose out except in the sense that the tourist didn’t want the room. He could still let it to someone else. Meantime they all paid off their debts!