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August 29, 2009 12:01 AM

Nearly 250 emergency vehicles have been taken off the North East's roads in the past five years having been mis-fuelled, the Liberal Democrats can reveal.

Staff filled up police patrol cars and ambulances with the wrong fuel - costing thousands in repairs and taking life-saving emergency vehicles off the road.

Motoring experts believe mis-fuelling happens around 150,000 cars a year, with repair bills totalling hundreds of millions of pounds.

The Liberal Democrat investigation discovered that 360 vehicles have been mis-fuelled in the region since 2004 costing a total of £64,401.82 to repair.

More than 170 of Northumbria Police's emergency vehicles have been wrongly fuelled in the last five years compared to 60 of the North East Ambulance Service's.

The North East Ambulance Service has recently fitted devices to all its vehicles to prevent mis-fuelling.

Ron Beadle, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary spokesman for Newcastle North, uncovered the costly errors in Freedom of Information Act requests to Northumbria Police, the North East Ambulance Service and Tyne and Wear Fire Service.

"I am astounded that so many emergency staff don't seem able to know whether to fill up their vehicles with diesel or unleaded petrol," said Ron Beadle.

"Not only is this a very expensive mistake, costing tax payers thousands of pounds of every year, but also takes life-saving emergency vehicles off the road until they are prepared.

"I am pleased that the North East Ambulance Service has taken action to prevent further mis-fuelling but what is Northumbria Police doing to stop this happening to further vehicles?"