* Prices may differ from that shown
Loathe them or love them, motorway services are part of motorway travel. I drive up and down the UK frequently and could never be certain how far away the next services stop was or whether the next one had more of my favourite shops and food outlets than the one after. However, that has changed since loading Motorway Services UK on my iPhone from www.trafficmediauk.com and can now plan my stops, knowing in advance which stop has what and where they are in relation to my position on the road. All shown on the integrated map. At £0.59p I only wish the prices at the motorway services were as reasonable.
Motorway service stations can be seen in two lights by everybody. The first is an essential place to stop off when on long drives up and down the country. Servie stations consist of : Petrol station most being BP, but Shell make their appearence too. You will also find a number of restaurants as well. These vary massively from pizza hut take away's, whimpy, burger king, mcdonalds and some others as well. Also you may find Costa, the coffee place, and some arcade mahcines mixed with gambling areas too. Sometimes you may also find a WHSmith's. And dont forget the toilets! The second view of service stations is slightly more against them. Now its all well and good having these amentites at service stations but there is one major problem with them. This is the pricing. As everyone knows they are ridiculous, just because of their convenience they think they can charge the earth for everything they sell. Service stations , good for having a rest, or getting petrol if you need it. But other wise stay away. Dont get ripped off!
I will only use Motorway Service Stations between about 10pm and 9am, when little else is available. I have found, with the sole exception of Marks & Spencers, that everything is a ridiculous price and the service so impersonal. Rather than use motorway services, I prefer to spend a few mins planning my stops. I google 'eat just off the motorway' and then select my stops from a huge list of possibilities, none further than about 5 miles from the motorway exits, most just a mile away. When travelling with children, for example, in addition to places with good food, I will be looking for children's menus and play areas; outdoor ones in summer. To save time, some restaurants will allow you, with previous arrangements, to telephone your order when you are within a couple of miles of them. The beauty of off-the-motorway stops is that they are uncrowded, often privately owned, the food freshly cooked to perfection, the menus varied and healthy and the cost is very reasonable. Apart from the expense of eating at motorway service areas I hate the food on offer, the din, the noise, the lack of fresh air, the huge car parks: nothing there relaxes nor freshes me.
As someone who travels the roads of Britain regularly I have visited a lot of service stations all over England. The one thing that I find annoying about service stations are the prices that they get away with charging. In a lot of the service stations now you have take away outlets such as Burger King, Wimpey and KFC, however they all charge higher prices than you would pay on the high street. Unfortunatly when you are on a long journey you are prepared to pay the prices, however I am not sure how they get away with inflated the prices so much. Also popping up at a lot of Service stations now are coffee outlets such as Costa Coffee, these make a welcome stop if you just want a nice cup of coffee, which you can also take away with you! On a positive note I personally would be lost without the service stations. The toilets are always clean and with a new baby the baby changing facilities are always very useful. The people that work at the stations are always friendly and are happy to help. With the new additions of Marks and Spencers at a lot of services it means you can purchase your dinner to have when you get home, or get household essentials which you may not have in at home if you have been away. Other shops are also always available to buy papers, sweets, snacks or books to occupy your journey. Sometimes actually finding the services can be a challenge, a few of them you actually have to go off the motorway and follow signs to get to them. You then have to follow signs to actually find the car parks and not the lorry park or car park for the travel lodge. Once you actually get to the car park for the services you then often have a little walk to the entrance!! Overall I do think that the service stations are an excellent facility even if you are just popping in to use the toilet or to grab a quick drink. They allow drivers to relax and get there energy up before completing their journey. They have a safety role in stopping tired drivers from continuing there journeys and possibly causing accidents. Despite the prices service stations definatly have an important role on the motorways of the UK!
As a regular traveller, motorway services can be a haven on any long journey. The advantages are plain to see. Parking is free, toilets are free, you can stretch your legs and grab something to eat and drink. Nowadays, you can also test your skills in the amusement arcade, buy an ice-scraper from Halfords or sit in the ubiquitous "massage chair" which has cropped up in every services around the UK. Forget the fact that you have to drive around a labyrinth of roads before you find the car park. The services themselves are generally clean and tidy with an efficient staff of cleaners - not least in the toilets which are inspected and washed at all hours of the day. There really is little difference between the UKs leading motorway service providers. Moto and Welcome Break are the largest with Roadchef also operating several. Prices are high; not least at the fast food restaurants - usually Burger Kings, though often Mcdonalds. Though, you know this when you stop and no one is forcing you to tuck into a Big Mac. In the same way, no one if forcing you to fill up your petrol tank with overpriced fuel. Even if you're not that clever, it doesn't take a genius to fill up "off the motorway". At the end of the day, you're paying for the convenience. The actual location of the services differs greatly. Frankley on the M5 is in a dire, concrete jungle, just outside Birmingham. However, Annandale and Tebay up North on the M6 are delighful locations - the former having a scenic lake within the service area. This kind of location is more in keeping with our European counterparts who have some delightful locations alongside the autoroutes and autobahns.
Motorway services are provided for drivers and passengers travelling up and down the country. They are quite expensive but I'm sure we have all used them at one time or another. Petrol now that is something I never buy for the simple reason it would cost a fortune to fill up the tank so I plan my journey and make sure that I have sufficient to get from A to B. If I really need a top up I leave the motorway and find a Tesco or other large supermarket, there is nearly always one just off a junction of any motorway nowadays and well worth the detour. The toilet facilities are provided for free and I have never been in a grotty one to be quite honest so I think that it is a really good plus point for our country's services if you go abroad you quite often have to pay to have a tinkle. There is always a coffee shop or large restaurant where ever you stop and yes it is expensive but they are providing a service in the middle of no where so you are bound to pay more. I have stopped on occasions for a snack or a coffee just to have a rest and I am aware that I will pay over the odds but I still feel that it is worth it just to get a break from behind the wheel. The shops offer a wide range of magazines and books along with gifts and snacks in case you have forgotten something for your trip the choice is there for the customer a few pence more for everything but it is available. I had a dodgy stomach once and called in for some Imodium tablets I didn't expect them to be on display but they were so I was quite impressed with that. There are quite a few Services now with Marks and Spencer outlets these are great and the costs are exactly the same as in any other Marks and Spencer store so I do use these to buy a few bits and bobs if I have been away from home for a few days like bread and milk etc. Over all I think our motorway services provide a great service, free parking for up to two hours, free toilet and wash room facilities shops for all those little things that you have forgotten and a decent hot drink and snack.
I would like to say a big thank you to the staff at the Wimpy bar for attending to our party of 20 children from Chernobyl,and 5 adults travelling from Heathrow Airport to Lancashire on Sunday 13th May. They dealt with our order very quickly, quietly and proffessionally without any detrement to to their other customers. They were very friendly and helpful and deserve a big pat on the back. Thank you very much.
I find this review interesting. Ive been research into service stations and have been in contact with two main forviders wihin England. Im a third year radio student at the university of lincoln and Im interested in making a radio feature about the issue of service stations being overpirced. I want to make sure its fairly represented from a number of sources, I would be inetrested in interviewing the writter of this article. I would have contatced you directly, but I am new to this site and am not sure how it works, is people could contact me via this site i would really appreciate it. Thanks for reading this. Sam Nigh
I thought I'd share with you the little treasure I discovered called 'Fill Up For Less'. At only £5 it provides a handy guide to alternative food and fuel stops close to the Motorway. For example, did you know that there is a Tesco Superstore no more than 200yards off junction 4 of the M42. Well neither did I till I used this book. Stopping there for petrol has saved me a couple of quid on every visit. And there is more like this. Every option adjacent to a motorway is listed. This is a real gem of a practical booklet that I would recommend to anyone like me who has to pay for their own petrol! PS. I found it at www.fillupforless.co.uk
The sight of a motorway service station, just up ahead, can be very welcome for many motorists and their passengers. It is the chance to take a quick break from the road and driving. The opportunity just to catch a few minutes fresh and have a quick stretch of the legs before setting off again to complete the journey. They can be very handy if you urgently need the toilet and you are a long way off your final destination. The prices that you will encounter at the motorway service stations in the United Kingdom are, in all fairness, extortionate. They charge way over the odds for basic goods that you could buy elsewhere for around two thirds of the price. I nicked a lift off of my sister and her boyfriend back to London a couple of weeks ago and I was feeling a bit peckish as I hadn't eaten any breakfast. I went into the petrol station shop and purchased a sandwich, a packet of crisps, a chocolate bar and a bottle of water. I was a little bored too so I bought a couple of tabloid newspapers. They came to a total of £6.77, which is an awful for lot compared to what you would pay in a 'normal' place. If I were to buy the same things from a branch of Tesco Express, I would estimate that they would come in at just under £5 which isnt too bad. The petrol prices that you find at motorway service stations are the one thing that bugs me most. The prices at the pump tend to be around 8p a litre higher than those in more accessible areas, if that is the right way to say it. That means for every 10 litres that you pay for, you would have got one free had you purchased it elsewhere. If people have pulled into a service station to buy petrol because they are running low, they dont exactly have a choice whether to fill up or not. This way, they have the customer over a barrel and seemingly charge what they like. The worst place that I have come across is Fleet Services in Hampshire, the prices that the Shell garage charges are massive. There are those that say, I must admit that I do agree that you are paying for the convenience. It is much the same as 24 hour or 'open 'til late' convenience stores; they are there for you when most shops are closed. In order that they operate in different circumstances to provide you with a service, they can charge that little bit more. The motorway services are rather cunning, in that just by being there people feel compelled to make use of what is being offered. They also have a policy that if the customer wants something they will pay whatever they have to, because there isn't any other alternative. The restaurant facilities that you tend to get in these service stations tend to be very poor, although that is only a generalisation. I am not saying that there are no good quality food services to be found, but on the whole they are very poor. They are on the whole, very poorly kept. They are dirty and grubby, as well as lots of litter and bits of food lying around. The staff that work in these places, bless them, must be on fairly low wages and therefore very demotivated and in some cases disillusioned with their role. As a result, they have no desire to keep the facilities in good order. The food that is on offer is pretty poor too. You know what to expect from the usual fast food chains, so I won't even go there. The other restaurants that provide more civilised surroundings and slightly better cuisine are of a relatively low standard. The food isn't at all great and the service isn't much better. All in all, I would say that you should only really stop at the services if you are going, or have been on, a long journey and need a break. I would definitely say that drivers stop and take a five minute break from driving and that others just get a bit of air and have a little stroll. There should be no need to buy anything from the services, provided that you are well prepared for your journey. Only a little emergency should result in you splashing your cash on the overpriced goods on sale. The services are there for your convenience and I have to say that they can be mini lifelines for some people in certain situations.
Having just returned to the Midlands from Sheffield I though I would review motorway services while the experience is fresh in my mind. In their favour, motorway services provide handy toilet stops at regular intervals (unless you are between Oxford and London and plan to go round the M25 anti-clockwise). In addition, they are a good place to pull of the road and rest if you're feeling tired. Also, if you are a couple of DINKY's (Dual Income No Kids Yet) and can afford to part with large sums of cash for no particular reason, then they are an important part of creating that UK holiday experience. This is not true of all services (Moto ones especially), but anybody who has been to Westmorland will know how pleasant an experience it *can* be. That really is about all the good points. The main problem I have with them is price. Upon walking into the services on the M1 just south of Junction 34 (I forget the name) I thought a bottle of water would be nice. I would have purchased one had they not cost £1.30!!!!!! That is what is known in the trade as 'daylight robbery' (except it was night at the time). Let me put that in perspective: THAT'S A .75L BOTTLE OF WATER FOR NEARLY TWICE THE PRICE OF 1L OF PETROL!!!! This is not good value, and the reason I especially object is that motorway services have a guaranteed customer base and by extension a monopoly in the areas in which they operate. Any talk of higher overheads due to land prices, provision of free car parking, and free lavatory facilities is rubbish. The services receive free advertising in the form of 'tiredness kills' signs and like in the preceding few miles, they pay their staff fractionally above minimum wage (the only time that McDonalds and Burger King employees are actually in a higher wage bracket!!), and they have a continuous stream of customers to whom they charge inflated prices. Anybody who has worked in retail management will tell you that the biggest cost is labour, and it is only really a problem if you have staff working and no customers for them to serve. Motorway services seem to be only area of UK retail left where the till staff don't have time to sit around discussing their social lives because they continually have custom. With the exception of Westmorland, which is staffed and managed entirely by the locals, very few Motorway services offer the sort of experience that would draw in customers if they were not so conveniently situated. The food is lacklustre, the service non-existent, and the facilities often poor (Sandbach services on the M6 - ugh!) Even at Westmorland my wife and I paid nearly £20 for beans on toast and tea for two - this is what is known as a rip off. There's a cafe on the Romford Road that would have provided twice the quantity of food, of at least the same if not better quality, for half that price - and that's with London property prices. In fact at Tamworth services on the M42, it was the one time that purchasing chocolate from Thorntons was cheaper than going to the 'convenience store'. If they were to lower their prices to something reasonable then I would recommend them to all, but 50-100% markup in a monopoly is unethical. Go to the supermarket beforehand and prepare for your journeys - you could afford another holiday with what you save!
I love motorway service stations probably more than I should. I've travelled far and wide in my time and I've seen many storms. I have closely monitored the improvement of the services over the years. The choices these days are endless! You can lay your hands on everything that you may need, be it Cliff Richards Greatest Hits on cassette or just a simple Scotch egg. You may want to have a gamble on the arcade machines, buy some lovely flowers or call an old friend for a natter. What I do depends on my mood, if I am excited, I go to Burger King. If I am feeling a bit 'leisurely' I go to the Granary Café and opt for some delicious food from under the heat lamps. Harry Ramsdens and 'Upper Crust' are welcome new additions at motorway services, although I did have to wait a long time for my food on one particular occasion at Harry Ramsdens. People do say that everything at motorway services is very overpriced, especially cups of coffee, but I don't care because I hate coffee.
There is a lot to be said about motorway service areas (some good, most bad) but I feel some special credit should be given to the Road Chef Norton Canes on the new M6 Toll road. Road Chef Norton Canes is situated between junctions six and seven of the M6 Toll road prior to the toll stations on each carriageway. It is a very modern building with clean lines and a large glass front. The interior is light and airy and is fully air-conditioned. The outside boasts a large patio area that is themed with water fountains and water jets – fun for the kids after a long journey. Eating The ‘OnRoute’ restaurant is the main eatery in the services. With an open plan dining area and outside patio area this does give a more pleasant edge to the usual dire service area restaurant. Service is buffet/self service style although according to the Road Chef website they also provide table service after 6pm. Food is cooked from fresh in the Road Chef ‘food theatre’ where customers can order and watch food being cooked for them. Choice is excellent with enough of a selection for even the healthy eaters with fresh fruit, yoghurts and vegetarian meals available. Prices are as high as other service areas and inevitable you also pay for the surroundings. Do not expect much change out of a tenner for a decent meal and drink. Service that I have experienced in the restaurant has always been good but this could be down to the fact that this is a relatively new service area. Costa Coffee also have an outlet onsite with the opportunity for sit-in or take-away. I am not a big fan of coffee in general but do love the Costa hot chocolate - ‘Grande’ style with all the trimmings on top (cream, marshmallows, chocolate etc). They also provide a selection o f sandwiches, paninis (try the chicken, pesto and sun dried tomato), toasties as well as a selection of cakes for those hungry customers. Prices here are about the same as high street outlets so quite reasonable for motorway services. Typically the hot chocolate costs around £2.50 and sandwiches/paninis from £3.99 depending on filling. Service is quick and easy and surprisingly they always seem to have plenty of staff on-hand to help. The separate seating area is within the open plan main atrium and has sofa style couches and leather tub chairs for comfort. The Costa at Norton Canes is always crowded so if that is anything to go by I would certainly recommend you give it a go. And what would a motorway services be without a burger bar. This takes the form of a Wimpy restaurant. I must admit I have not yet had the pleasure of a Wimpy burger so would not like to comment, but I am sure this would be a favourite for the kids. Shopping Surprisingly the only shopping at Norton Canes services is at the Road Chef ‘ReStore’ shop. No mobile phone or tacky outlets as is common at other service areas. The ‘ReStore’ shop has a wide variety of products. The usual suspects of sandwiches, sausage rolls, drinks, crisps and chocolate and very much present but also some other products not always seen everywhere like CD’s, clothing (why would anyone buy clothing from a service area), seasonal products, phone accessories, books, games etc. Road Chef have also just launched a new range of sandwiches by chef Brian Turner which although pricey do bring the service area sandwich into the 21st century. Prices are not cheap but I suppose you are paying for the convenience as well as the product. In saying that I find that in general Road Chef are still much cheaper than Moto services. Typical a Brian Turner sandwich will cost from £2.50 and drinks from £1.10. I have found the customer service in this shop varies depending on when you shop. Think its just more about the staff’s personal attitude rather than anything else. Accommodation/Meeting Rooms There is a 40-bedroom Travel Inn hotel on site offering rooms that can sleep up to a family of four comfortably. Rooms have a double bed and also one or two pullout beds suitable for kids. They also have colour TV, bathroom with shower and hospitality tray. For only £46.95 per room per night Travel Inn offer excellent budget accommodation that is always clean and tidy especially at the newer sites like this one. Integrated into the Travel Inn is a Touchbase business and meetings centre. This new concept offers meeting rooms (from £100 per half day) and hot desks (£5.00/hr). The variety of rooms which can hold between 1 and 60 people offer phone points, ISDN lines, unlimited tea and Costa coffee, business facilities as well as a dedicated meeting host for all your needs. Other Features Toilets I must say are impressive and it is very obvious a lot of time has been put into the design. Very bright and airy with a lot of mirrors to make them seem much bigger. Toilets are sensor flushing and cubicles have anti graffiti walls so no more ‘who fancies who’ or dodgy phone numbers to read!!!! Sinks have sensors so no passing on germs here; it’s just a shame you have to press a button to dry your hands really. The toilets are always sparkling clean (toilet attendant always on duty) and are also pleasant smelling even for the gents!! There is also a feedback thing on the wall where you can grade the standard of the toilets when you leave. Super!! B 4; Openzone is provided for those who wish to connect their laptop computer to the Internet via a wireless connection. So great venue for a business lunch or meeting. A picnic area is provided for those people wanting to ‘bring their own’. This area is keep clean and tidy by regular patrols from the hygiene workers. A pleasant alternative to the service area food. Petrol Station Fuel is provided by BP in their ‘BP Connect Petrol Station’ one of the largest in the UK with 24 pumps. Petrol prices are no higher than the normal MSA price for fuel. Inside the forecourt is a shop with wide selection including the Wild Bean Café, which offers a quick stop for food and drink. Not as fresh as in the main service area building but good for a quick stop over. In general all motorway service stations share the same high prices and vary in terms of customer service but in terms of ambience, design and relaxation the Norton Canes is at the top of the list in my book. A pleasure to pay my £2.00 toll charge for this experience.
Why should we part with our hard earned cash at these establishments? In my experience, the motorway services in this country are not up to the standard they should be to justify the price we pay. I wouldn't mind paying if the services were at least clean, and the buildings and area were maintained. Ok, theres always the guy at the door peddling AA membership or somesuch, but he's not part of the buildings. Many of the services, particularly around Birmingham, are dirty, smelly, and seriously run down. They seem to be divided into 4 companies in my experience. Road Chef = One of the worst operators Welcome Break = One of the better places Granada = Worst I have found Moto = The name given to the recently renovated Granada services. ( The best ) I choose where I stop depending on the company as above. I used to stop at the infamous Frankley Services (nr Birmingham) on my trips to the south coast, but since the prices have skyrocketed (and one bad experience with toilet flushes) it is the last place I would go, the price hike would have been reasonable (you've all heard their excuses for the high prices) but I ask myself, where does the money go? Because it certainly doesn't go back the the consumer by improving the service they provide! This year it'll be different. I've already found a Tesco store *just* off the motorway for my main food stop (its cheap and cheerful), and a very nice service station in the lakes with a little pond and a 10min walk to stretch my legs. Stafford services offers a nice sandwich break with the luxury of using a CLEAN toilet. So my advice for other motorists? Plan your stops in advance, and save yourself from the traps.
I drive around 45000 miles per year largely on Britains motorways and in common with most long suffering motorists find myself far too often visiting our ghastly motorway service areas. Last year we took a motoring holiday to Italy, driving through france Germany and Switzerland on the way, and the experience brought into sharp focus just how wretched our services really are in the UK. Having driven from our ferry for around an hour we had our first stop in France. we sat in an air conditioned self service retsurant, so clean you could have eaten off the floor! and we had a couple of brilliant entrecotes, cooked rare and washed down with a glass of wine and accompanied by a crisp fresh salad and followed by a bowl of fresh fruit. Cost; £11.00 €18.oo in todays money. Amazing! We were also travelling with a 6 month old baby and the facilities were clean and well equipped with sterilisers heaters micros.. basically everything you could need. We had several more stops in France and Germnany and also in Switzerland where we encountered the same high standards. In Italy we had a long drive to endure and as a result we made several stops from the Alps to Ancona |(around 300 miles) and without doubt the Italian services were the best I have ever encountered, (especially the auto grill chain). Not only were they clean and well staffed, but the sheer array of fresh meals on offer was incredible and the quality was better than you will find in any British restaurant, never mind motorway service station. Everything is cooked to order using excellent quality ingredients and the surroundings are clean and tidy. (not a burger wrapper or stinking dusbin of old fries in sight) The baby facilities were even better than in France. On our return to the UK we stopped at the Reading service area on the M4 (now called MOTO) and the experience was horrendous, and in a srange way rather embarrasing. We purchased two teas two sandwiches and a couple of pas trys which tasted like they had been made in 1922. the tea was served in a filthy pot with an ill fitting lid and the cups were stained and cracked. The tray actually stank presumably from being wiped with a dirty cloth. The sanwiches were inedible, the centre of one of them was frozen solid. The whole area was a mess the stench of frying was totally overpowering and there was litter from burger king and bits of old food everywhere. We looked at the sad little tray of pre packed garbage floating in a lake of foul tasting tea on a stained stinky tray and fished the receipt out from underneath. £18.00!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Is it any wonder that the europeans fall about laughing when they talk about their experiences of British catering? Unfortunately my experience is the same up and down the country, overpriced filthy and in some cases insanitary. I dont think Egon Ronay would have much of a career if he were in continental Europe.