Northern Ireland has yet again secured the unenviable position of being the most expensive region in the UK for fuel.
New data provided by the AA shows an average petrol price of 113.5p a litre, compared to 112.1p in UK forecourts — despite a 2p fall in the wholesale cost.
The February Fuel Price Report also reveals that diesel costs on average 114.9p across the province, which makes it over 1p dearer at filling stations here than elsewhere.
It a worrying trend that means bad news for drivers, who continue to suffer from a lack of any real competition here.
And it echoes the dark days of a very painful 2008, when price discrepancies soared to unprecedented levels during the height of the recession.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, AA public Affairs spokesman Luke Bosdet said things had gone from bad to worse.
“The situation just doesn’t seem to be improving in Northern Ireland, unlike other parts of the UK,” he said.
“Ulster drivers were getting a poor deal last month and this month they’re getting an even worse one. If this continues, retailers will see a steady decline in the amount of fuel sold as drivers cut back use of their cars unless it’s absolutely necessary. That’s certainly what we’ve noticed in the rest of the UK.”
One of the drawbacks for local motorists is the absence of Morrison’s, which often drives fuel prices down across the board.
Indeed, the supermarket giant cut its petrol and diesel prices to a new annual low of 109.9p last Saturday.
“Motorists in Northern Ireland must be furious at the sustained high fuel prices,” Mr Bosdet said.
“Their resentment will be exacerbated further by the widening gap between the region’s average prices. Petrol has gone up by 1.2p over the past month, which is double anybody else, while diesel has increased by 0.5p during the same period and is similar only to Scotland.”
Figures from the comparison website petrolprices.com suggest petrol prices here on Wednesday fell between a range of 109.9p and 114.9p.
Diesel, meanwhile, cost 117.6p a litre in the most expensive Northern Ireland location and 111.9p in the cheapest.
“Cash-tight motorists should be choosy as to where they buy their fuel,” cautioned website co-founder Brendan McLoughlin.
Supermarkets are continuing to offer drivers competitive prices in some areas, but these can differ depending on geographical location.
Asda last night said that no customer will pay more than 109.9p per litre for unleaded or diesel when filling up at its forecourts.
A spokeswoman added: “When prices are rising — as they are now — we also watch the prices of our competitors at every single one of our stores to make sure we’re always the last in town to put prices up.”
A Tesco spokesman confirmed that petrol costs between 110.9p and 113.9p a litre, while diesel is priced between 111.9p and 114.9p.
At Sainsbury’s, a spokeswoman last night said customers will pay 108.9p to 112.9p for petrol and from 109.9p up to 113.9p for diesel. There are, however, concerns that the situation could deteriorate still further.
“The AA fears that the recent fall in the wholesale price is only a brief respite — inflation-linked fuel tax increases are due in April and stock market speculators in banks bailed out by the taxpayer are once again fixing their sights on $100 a barrel for oil,” Mr Bosdet added.