Motorway Services Online

Frequently Asked Questions

This list used to contain a massive list of questions which no-one ever consulted, so I've now consolidated it and checked my emails for questions I really do get asked frequently. Before that, I just need to give the usual message, because no matter how many times I put it people still manage to miss it: this site is not affiliated with any operator or service area. If you want to contact them, you're looking in the wrong place - find the right place.

On the other hand, if you're looking for information on the function, history and location of services, you're in the right place. There is a separate FAQ page for the forums.

Motorway Services

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. We try to detail the typical hours on the right-hand side of the Brands page.

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.

How many services are there?

As of 2015 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.

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 are not usually designed for motorway traffic.

Which is the oldest service area?

The M1 opened in 1959 with a pair of petrol stations at Newport Pagnell and petrol stations with toilets at Watford Gap. These developed into full services in August 1960 and October 1960 respectively.

Which is the newest service area?

The new Gloucester services.
The new Gloucester services.

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Gloucester southbound on the M5 opened in May 2015.

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.

How do I book a hotel room?

You can usually just turn up on the night, but if you want to pre-book your room then you will need to contact the hotel. Use the Services Search page to find a service area with a hotel and then tap the service area you want. Under facilities, find the purple 'book' button to go to that hotel's page.

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 I 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.

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 non-profit 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.

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.

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.

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 drivers discounts?

See the page on Professional Drivers.

Can I use a 'back exit'?

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.

This Website

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.

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.

How is this site funded?

The costs of maintaining this site are very low so are funded entirely by its owner, although donations are welcome. It provides independent information to the public.

Do the operators visit this site?

I can give you a straight yes for that one - they've even tried to rig the ratings a few times! Several people on the forums work for an operator too.

Do you have any sister sites in other countries?

Not really - learning the world's motorway network and service stations 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.

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 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.

Why aren't all the services listed in the a-roads section?

Simply because if they were the list would be enormous! Only services which have official services signs are included on the list, 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 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 you are unable to do this 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.