|Road:||M3 between J4a and J5|
|Telephone number:||01252 621656|
|Signposted from the road?||Yes (southbound as Waitrose/McDonalds/Starbucks)|
|Previous operators:||Trusthouse Forte|
|Services type:||Two sites located between junctions, connected by an internal bridge.|
|Visit Fleet/Welcome Break's official website|
Built in the middle of a forest, Fleet is a popular service area on the main route between London and the South West. One of the local legends of services, it can get quite busy during holiday times and is one of few services to offer McDonald's as well as KFC and Burger King.
Main Amenities: Ecotricity Electric Vehicle Charging Point, Welcome Break Gaming
Restaurants: Burger King, Eat In (southbound only), KFC, McDonald's, Papa John's Pizza (southbound only), Starbucks, Costa Express, Krispy Kreme, Subway(northbound only)
Shops: Fone Bitz (southbound only), Waitrose, WHSmith
Motel: Days Inn[book rooms] (southbound only)
Forecourt: Shell (with: Autogas LPG), Costa Express, Starbucks Drive Thru (northbound only), Air1 AdBlue
First two hours free for all vehicles, after which cars must pay £11.
Prices can be paid in the shop and restaurant, with instructions in each car park. They are strictly enforced by ParkingEye.
Trivia and History
Fleet was one of the first services to try out Welcome Break's new look in 2006. It also appears to have quite a lot of Facebook groups - I count eight, most of which are complimentary.
It's one of two Welcome Break services which have a McDonald's. In 1995 Welcome Break announced that following its success they were going to open a McDonald's at all of their services, but this process was stopped after Welcome Break was bought by Granada who already had a deal with Burger King.
The BBC Domesday website suggests that in 1986, 60% of the services' trade happened on the westbound side.
An additional Waitrose store opened on the northbound side on 27 July 2012 and a Starbucks drive thru opened on the northbound side on 31 July 2012, which was a first for a motorway service station. The new Starbucks utilised a formerly disused forecourt building. This means that Starbucks is now open 24hrs, which was novel at the time.
On BBC Southern Counties Radio, Jeremy Clarkson described the "Fleet cheat" where you use the services' back exit to avoid queues on the motorway, but he was told there were now rising bollards in use, to which he suggested getting a Hummvee.
Until 2001 there was a workshop still in use next to the southbound forecourt.
The hotel was first applied for in 1974, but didn't materialise until the late '80s. Also in 1974, plans were put forward to but a canopy over the forecourt and extend the main building.
For quite a while Fleet was the only service area on the M3, and even today it's the only 'proper' services for south-western traffic for the next 130 miles. It replaced the unbuilt Trumps Green services. It was also one of the first to go for a more rural design, with a tightening budget and environmental concerns not allowing for the more striking designs that had been used so far.
The footbridge at Fleet was built with this section of motorway, but the rest of the services weren't built for a few years, so for a while we were left with a bridge connecting two sides of wasteland.
In May 2012 and August 2011, Visit England rated the northbound services as 3 stars and the southbound side as 4 stars.
In 2008 the services won a five star loo award.
In 2006 and again in 2007, the toilets at the petrol station were given a three star loo award. The services themselves were rated four-star.
In 2005 the whole services won a five star loo award.
The services were inspected by the AA on the 24th and 25th of March 2007. These are their results:
|Road safety and parking:||Acceptable|
|Outdoor facilities:||Very Poor|
|Access and indoor facilities:||Very Poor|
|Family Friendliness:||Very Poor|
The services were said to be well signed and supervised, with a good shop and clean facilities. The biggest problem raised was the lack of disabled access. The lack of outside space and cold snacks were also highlighted.
In 1992 the services won the entire Loo of the Year competition.
|none on M3|
South Mimms (M25 north, 52 miles)
Clacket Lane (M25 south, 48 miles)
Pease Pottage (M23 south, 51 miles)
Toddington (M1 north, 18 miles)
|Services on the M3||
Winchester (25 miles)|
Popham (A303, 18 miles)
|South Mimms (M25 north, 52 miles)||Welcome Break services||none|
Views expressed in these comments are those of the individual contributor. They are moderated by Facebook.