The price of petrol rose by 3.5p in January, reaching prices last seen just before the first lockdown was introduced on March 22, 2020.

The increase to 120p a litre marks the third consecutive month of price increases, according to data released by RAC Fuel Watch.

Diesel also rose by more than 3p a litre to 123.43p, marking the second rise in as many months. However, both fuels remained around 7p cheaper than they were a year ago.

Simon Williams, RAC fuel spokesman, said: “Petrol car drivers have sadly seen three months of rising pump prices taking us back to a level last seen at the start of the first lockdown late last March and adding a couple of pounds to the cost of filling up.

“The increase stems from $5 being added to the price of a barrel of oil although this has been cushioned by the pound strengthening a little against the dollar. One thing’s for sure prices are nowhere near the lows we saw in late May when petrol was just under 106p a litre and was diesel 111p.”

At current prices, the cost of filling up an average 55-litre tank of unleaded will cost £66 – close to £2 more than at the start of the year. Doing the same for a diesel-powered car will cost £67.89 – up £1.86 in the same period.

Compared to May 2020, when petrol fell to 105.81p a litre, a fill-up is now £8 more expensive. Diesel is close to £7 pricier, given the increase on May’s price of 111.23p a litre.

RAC Fuel Watch believes that the increase is being led by supermarkets, with retailers such as Asda adding more than 5p a litre to petrol, taking the average price of fuel across its sites to 115.13p, though Sainsburys follows with a similarly-priced litre of unleaded at 115.87p a litre.

Williams added: “These latest fuel prices unfortunately show the power of oil production cuts in getting the barrel price back up from the floor at $13.21, when the impact of international travel restrictions first hit last April, to the $55 mark now.

“Eyes will now be on the Chancellor who will face a difficult decision at his Budget next month as to whether to pile further misery on drivers by raising fuel duty at a time when pump prices are on the rise and many household incomes are being squeezed as a result of the pandemic.”