“We always buy gasoline more expensive than the big stations”: the blues of small stations in rural areas in the face of rising fuel prices

He can no longer fill up with customers. A year ago, Bernard bought the only service station in an isolated village in the Drôme Provençale. But since fuel prices have soared, the customer is therefore rare and goodbye good deal. “The small stations, we always buy more expensive gasoline than the big stationsBernard explains. Automatically, in these periods when people pay more attention, we are even more penalized. The margin is small, a station like that can make between 800 and 1,000 euros per month. We don’t live with that.”

The rise in fuel prices is often a double penalty for those who live in the countryside: petrol is more expensive there and, also, often further away. Sometimes the supermarkets offering the lowest prices are 20 km or more from isolated villages.

It is not certain that Bernard will continue for long. His station is likely to be added to the list of those that have already closed in rural areas. The number of stations has dropped drastically in France. There were 41,000 forty years ago, there are no more than 11,000 today.

A few years ago, the Villes-sur-Auzon station in the Vaucluse had to close, except that the municipality decided to buy it. Mayor Frédéric Rouet has become a service station manager but with the obligations of a public service. “We exceed two million euros in turnover over four years, so we have to make a European call for tendersdevelops Frédéric Rouet.When we need to refuel, we send to the two companies that have been selected and we choose the cheapest.

“We are not at the price of a supermarket but we manage to have correct prices for a small station.”

Frédéric Rouet, Mayor of Villes-sur-Auzon

at franceinfo

Here, the mayor sets the prices. It makes no profit but a margin to pay for maintenance and security costs. A margin that varies downward when prices rise and vice versa to limit the “yoyo effect” a little.

Still, the station is doing a favor to Esteban who has come to fill the tank of his scooter: “For 5 euros I fill up, so I don’t have to go to the next village.” She also serves the customers of the bistro. “Luckily she’s there, it helps people out”explains a resident. “We don’t fill up there but it allows a very good point”adds another.

Mayor Frederic Rouet at the 100% municipal service station in Villes-sur-Auzon in the Vaucluse, February 13, 2022. (ALAIN GASTAL / RADIO FRANCE)

Only the village caregiver never goes there. She travels a hundred kilometers a day and prefers to hunt cost prices at the risk of breakdown. “I’m almost waiting for the reserve to just look on the internet where it costs the least. Sometimes, I even drive 20 or even 30 km to be able to fill up elsewhere otherwise it’s too expensive for me.” The service station nevertheless participated in maintaining the 27 businesses in this village of 1,300 inhabitants.

In rural areas, the double penalty of rising fuel prices – Reportage Alain Gastal

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