Motorway Services Online

Frequently Asked Questions

Some websites have a suspiciously large list of questions which sound like it's what they want you to ask, rather than what you actually want to know. These really are the questions we get asked the most - hopefully yours will be answered here.

All answers refer to the UK mainland, except where stated.

Contents

Motorway Services

I'm trying to complain/contact a service area
I've lost something

We've got you covered! Contacting an operator has the options for you.

Facilities

What are the opening hours of services? When are they closed?

Larger motorway services are open at night, but offer little.

All motorway services must be open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year providing parking, fuel, hot drinks and basic food. For the smaller services this is usually achieved by directing everyone over a bridge or to the petrol station. Larger services may offer you a coffee shop or newsagents only.

The individual stores at services are open varying hours, some for longer than others. If you search for the brand name you're looking for, the typical opening hours will be displayed on the right where available.

Other services, if signposted from the road, will be open every day except Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year's Day. If the signposts say "not 24hrs" or "fuel only 24hrs" then they will be open from 8am to 8pm. All of these dates and times are the minimum requirements and some services may choose to exceed these. If there are no signs to the services then their opening hours are completely up to them.

Will a big sports match or TV event be aired at a certain service area?

If the event is big enough then the answer is almost always yes, but that's the best answer I can give. As always, for the best response ask the operator.

How much does it cost to park at a service area?

If this information isn't listed on the site under 'parking prices' on that service area's page, then we don't know. You'll have to ask the operator.

This applies particularly for people wishing to park for several days.

For all other parking queries, see Parking.

Which services have showers? (or any other facility)

Where information is available, it is listed on the site. Most motorway services now provide showers as it's actually a legal requirement for new services. If the information isn't available, then I don't know, and you'll need to ask the operator.

How can I find out about coach/lorry drivers' discounts?

See the page on Professional Drivers.

Can I use a 'back exit'?

The signs are clear, even if it's tempting.

These roads are for authorised traffic only, so you can't, but there will often be very little to stop you. That's a risk for you to make your mind up on.

Who is responsible for the sliproads (or any other aspect of) a service area?

If the service area is directly accessed from the motorway, Highways England (and its equivalents) are responsible until the end of motorway signs, and take responsibility again from the start of motorway signs at the exit. Between them the operator is responsible. If the services are accessed via a junction then this becomes a little blurred but the boundary can usually be identified by signs and a change in road surface. The local authority would be responsible for the roads outside of the services.

Although operators control the content of the road signs on the motorway, Highways England maintain them and should be contacted first.

Criticisms

Why are European motorway services so much better?

This question was first asked in the 1960s, and is still asked today, but almost every study into the subject hasn't been convinced that it's true.

The much-praised continental service stations are usually dealing with much lower traffic levels, and a different customer attitude, who is willing to pay more and take some time out to enjoy a meal. In Britain, demand has dictated that since the 2000s almost all services have offered fast food - and it is usually by far the most popular offer.

The other difference is that most continental restaurants are leased out to family-run firms, whereas in Britain the whole complex (building, toilets, car park, sliproads) is owned by one firm, creating significant financial pressures (some European countries fund those unprofitable items through tax and tolls instead). When you compare like-with-like, the reputation and service has always been similar, even when British service stations were at their worst.

UK motorway services were based very loosely on what existed in America, West Germany and Italy. France and Switzerland inspected the 1960s British examples before building their own.

Why are motorway services so unpleasant?

Historically, British motorway services are an experiment which hasn't gone well. With little experience to go on, they were built too small, too difficult to maintain and were targeted at a high-class customer base which didn't really exist. In addition, they were treated as a rent machine by the government. This all started to change by the 1970s, but by then the operators had already dramatically cut their quality to keep their business afloat.

Those pressures no longer really exist, but the reputation has followed service stations around, not helped by a management culture which has sometimes encouraged it. Most people don't want to eat at a motorway service station, even a decent one, which has caused most the restaurants to be replaced by fast food joints. And while those are hardly in the spirit of the original brief for a relaxing atmosphere, it seems to be what people want.

Biggest/Best/Etc

How many services are there?

As of 2016 there are 94 services open and signed from the motorway, but that's counting the two Staffords and two Sedgemoors as one, counting Lymm and Carnforth which are borderline truckstops and including Todhills rest area. There are many large services on a-roads which are covered on this site but haven't been counted.

As a point of interest, this site currently covers 157 of them.

Which is the newest service area?

The new Gloucester services.
The new Gloucester services.

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On the UK mainland, Gloucester southbound on the M5 opened in May 2015. In Northern Ireland, Lisburn opened in 2016.

Which is the busiest or biggest service area?

The biggest is Cobham on the M25. Information on which is the current busiest hasn't been released. In the 1990s, Cherwell Valley and Hilton Park were said to be busiest, but a lot has changed since then.

Which is the smallest or quietest services?

Again, no-one really knows. Cullompton and Pease Pottage are both pretty small but have been expanded recently. Severn View has the smallest amenity building but large grounds. There are smaller services, but they aren't officially motorway services. Todhills is very small but is regarded as a "rest area".

Which is the oldest service area?

Even that one's not easy. The Original Five tells the story of how Watford Gap and Newport Pagnell on the M1 both opened in phases between 1959 and 1960.

In Ireland, it's Lusk, which opened in 2010.

Which is the best/worst service area?

You can get the current results at MSO:Ratings.

Which service station is the most unique?

The tower is an M6 landmark.
The tower is an M6 landmark.

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That would have to be either Lancaster on the M6, featuring a very 1960s spaceship-shaped tower, or Tebay, a privately-run service area in the Lake District which is often described as the best service area around.

This Website

Requests

You're missing a service area!
Can you add my business?

If we listed everything we'd be enormous! We currently list all motorway services in the UK and Ireland, and have included a number of other services which we have deemed to be particularly interesting or important.

Only services which have official services signs are included in the A-roads section, as this implies that they provide a certain standard of facilities. Only the most important a-roads are covered on this site as I don't have the time to add any more.

Can I use your information in my project?

For small projects, yes, but if it's going to be published we ask that appropriate credit or a link is provided. For large commercial contacts, please tell us a little more.

Can I use one of your photos?

Where a photo was taken by a user of this site (in which case there will probably be a link to the user's page), it is up to you to try and find this user and get specific permission and conditions to use their photo. If you can take it, it must be saved on your own webspace, you cannot simply copy it on to the page. If this is an issue there are free image hosting services available, such as ImageShack.

Many photos on this site are used under a Creative Commons license, allowing anyone to take them under certain conditions. More information on this can be found on the photo's page.

Using MSO

Do you have any sister sites in other countries?

Motorway Services Online covers the UK and Ireland. Learning the rest of the world's motorway network seems a little too much for now! A quick online search shows that there are very few websites about foreign service stations, perhaps it's because they're not as infamous as UK ones.

Why do you insist information given is unique?
Why can't I just paste some changes?

If you've ever spent weeks travelling to London and hours reading old documents, you'll realise it's more than irritating when somebody copies everything you spent days typing up, takes all the credit for it, and on some occasions goes on to make money out of it.

We take a dim view of people who take our contributor's work and don't thank them for it. But we can only take that position if we know the information we hold isn't already available anywhere else. Besides, the vast majority of the time the information we already have is more accurate than what's available elsewhere.

Do the operators visit this site?

Absolutely - over the years we've had correspondence with them over many issues. I believe the phrase they use is "keep your friends close, keep your enemies closer". What they don't do is influence what we write about them, or who we recommend.

Why is there a website about motorway services?

Like all good things, it was a joke that went too far. I mean why would you run a website about motorway services? After writing about them for a while I became increasingly interested in what I was writing, and a website was born.

Technical Problems

How do I use the website?

It depends what you're looking for! If you're looking for information on a particular service station, the 'motorways' tab would be a good place to start - there is a link from there for A-roads. The 'information' tab may help you, but it contains a lot more detailed information which is generally only of interest to enthusiasts of the industry. The 'community' tab is for those who are interested in the type of information offered and would like to take part.

How do I update something on the site or add a photo?
How do I log in?

Firstly, if you're not already registered, get on with it! Press 'register' under 'login' at the top (desktop) or bottom (mobile). Afterwards log in. Then go to the page you want to update and press edit in the bottom-right (desktop) or bottom-left (mobile).

To upload a photo, log in and visit Special:Upload.

Why do I keep being logged out?

This is usually caused by a corrupt cookie. The website can occasionally get confused as you browse around, especially if you move between the British (blue) and Irish (green) versions of the website. Open your browser's privacy settings and delete all cookies set by "motorwayservices".

Why was I moved between the British (blue) and the Irish (green) versions of the website?

Although there are two versions of the website for Britain and for Ireland, the two overlap. As a result they share a search bar. Sometimes you will be searching for a page on the Irish version and the only result will come from the British version, or vice-versa. If you just browse around the links this shouldn't cause an issue.

Generally speaking, as there are fewer Irish services, all the information will be placed on each service area's page. In the UK, there is often so much information to share that more generic pages, such as Services Which Have Been On TV, are used.

Why was my edit undone?

Whenever you edit a page on this site, you allow others to further edit or remove your work - this is even stated on the edit page. If your edit was completely removed then a reason will be given on the history page (press the 'history' tab on the appropriate page) or on your talk page.

I have a question about the Forums

Well you're in luck! If it's about the software used, there's a whole page about that.