A long day at Europe’s busiest gas station
The first Saturday in August is the busiest day of the year at the petrol station, when European July holidaymakers head home and August sun seekers head south. The busiest day in Europe. Rising global fuel prices have not stopped thousands of motorists and truck drivers from refueling at the Shell station in Berghem, southern Luxembourg, on the busiest A3 highway.
The Grand Duchy may be small, but it's a crossroads between Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands, located on the road south to the coasts of France, Italy and Spain. And -- a key point with prices rising sharply this summer -- fuel is considered cheap, making it a favorite among long-haul truckers and families watching their spending. Even outside the summer rush, motorists and cross-border workers from France and Germany often throng Luxembourg.
When a family's final destination is on the shores of the Mediterranean, where a full tank of fuel costs more than 100 euros (dollars), there are savings. On Saturday, two 40,000-litre tankers filled with motorhomes were scheduled to make 16 to 20 trips a day to operate petrol and diesel pumps at Berkem station. - Huge budget -
At the start of the year, Russia's invasion of Ukraine and supply problems following the coronavirus pandemic sent fuel prices skyrocketing... as did the profits of major oil companies. Global oil prices and retail petrol prices began to fall and governments began to subsidize rebates in the face of motorist discontent. For example, France has already cut the price at the pump by 18 cents and the discount will reach 30 cents in September, while Belgium cut taxes by 17.50 cents per liter in March.
In Luxembourg, the cut was only 7.50 cents in April, and it is unclear whether authorities will extend it until the end of August. For now, the Grand Duchy remains in favour. On Saturday, AFP reported paying 1.79 euros per liter of petrol in Brussels and fuel price monitoring websites put the average Belgian price at 1.867 euros per litre.
But Berchem motorists, stuck in queues with other drivers from half of Europe and truckers from Cyprus, Ireland and Poland, pay just EUR1,636. "Thanks to the perfect location in the middle of Europe. Favorable fuel prices also make a difference," explains Daniel Calderon, owner of the service station.
He found motorists who rushed there on Saturday were mostly in "good spirits", thanks to the "holiday spirit" reigning after two years of travel restrictions linked to the pandemic. "We take advantage of it by returning via Luxembourg, which is always a little cheaper. We notice that it is cheaper than when we left.
This is good news," says Christian, a Belgian tourist. "When you live in a village, like me, for example, and you don't have any transportation other than a car, it becomes a big budget," laments French woman Marie-Jo.
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