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Heston services

Heston
Moto
Facilities | Rating | ReviewsHeston
Road:M4 between J2 and J3

MAP AND DIRECTIONS
Address:Moto Hospitality Ltd
M4 Services
Phoenix Way
Heston
Hounslow
Middlesex
TW5 9NB
Telephone number:020 85802152
Signposted from the road?westbound as: Costa/Burger King/Greggs
eastbound as: Costa/WHSmith/Burger King
Opened:1967
Previous operators:Granada
Grid reference:TQ118778
Services type:Two sites located between junctions, with no public connection between them.
Visit Heston Westbound/Moto's official website
Visit Heston Eastbound/Moto's official website
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Heston is the last service area on the M4 into London, and provides quick service for those heading in and out of the capital.

Facilities

Restaurants: Burger King, Costa, Costa Express, Krispy Kreme
westbound only: Greggs
Shops: WHSmith
westbound only: M&S Simply Food, Top Gift
Main Amenities: Ecotricity Electric Vehicle Charging Point, Full Hou$e, Lucky Coin, Picnic Tables, Showers Motel: Travelodgebook west | book east Forecourt: BP (with: LPG), Shop, Costa Express, Krispy Kreme, Air1 AdBlue, Car Wash
westbound only: Greggs

Parking Prices

First two hours free for all vehicles, after which cars must pay £12.50 and HGVs £21.50, or £23 to include a £9 food voucher.

Prices are paid using PayByPhone - more details. The location code is 2442 (westbound) and 2441 (eastbound).

The fees are strictly enforced by CP Plus.

Trivia and History

The older eastbound services.

Several sources are adamant that TV-chef Heston Blumenthal was named after his parents' love of the services, although he claims this isn't true.

It was located amongst what was one of the most controversial road features in the country: the M4 bus lane.

Gates are provided at the start and end of the lengthy sliproads. These appear to be an early motorway feature which has never been removed.

Choosing Location

Following concerns that lorry drivers would need a place to rest before entering London, the planned maintenance compound at M4 J3 was expanded to include lorry parking as well. This plan quickly grew in scale, with sites on both sides of the motorway considered, until it was realised this would be attracting far too much traffic to what was expected to be a very busy interchange.

A 14-acre alternative site was found on the disused Heston Aerodome (which closed in 1947). This had a problem with a nearby street called Grange Close, that had specially been built around the planned site of the M4. To build the services in the exact place that had been suggested, some of the new houses would have had to have been demolished to make way for the eastbound onslip.

Expecting that to cause an outcry, the eastbound services were shifted west slightly. This created an area of unused land and the link road to the rear access. As a result, the contract for the services stated this area must become a landscaped picnic area, which the operators had to consider.

As these issues would cause the services would be opening after the M4, a footbridge was not included in the plan. The westbound services were originally set to be opposite the eastbound side - it's not clear why it was ever moved.

Rejected Designs

The contract to design the services received seven qualifying responses, of varying quality.

Unlike many other services which had been designed at the time, the land here was particularly flat and offered no enticing views. The government were also aware of the close proximity of both London and Heathrow, and reminded applicants that the services should not be trying to attract local traffic, especially from high-end Chiswick. They ruled that any facilities above the minimum requirements must be on the eastbound side only, to reduce the likelihood of this happening. Partly for that reason, they insisted no bridge be built here.

As this was a fairly urban development, low buildings were requested. The main user of the services was expected to be lorry drivers.

W.H. Turner Properties

This company built houses and industrial units. Their building design, road layout and kitchen setup were all separately described as "unacceptable" by an expert on each subject. The building design was "unimaginative", but at least the rest area "nice" albeit "unexciting". The financial proposals did not meet expectations. Needless to say, this proposal was not examined in detail.

John Willment Automobiles

John Willment owned garages and petrol stations in south west London. Their financial proposal fell significantly short of the requirements, and when they were informed of this they withdrew. Normally companies who had misread the financial brief would be encouraged to resubmit, but a brief look at John Willment's landscaping and kitchen design caused the Ministry to leave things as they were.

Highway Restaurants Ltd

Highway Restaurants was a combined offer from Blue Star (frustrated part-owners of three services) and Trust Houses (who were later taken over by Fortes). They initially submitted a non-qualifying financial bid but quickly corrected this with one which qualified but offered disappointing returns for the Ministry.

Highway Restaurants' experience in catering clearly showed in their plans, with a "very efficient and flexible" kitchen. They promised to offer "an outstanding example" of service station demand, with the "highest standard of service". They proposed one long building at the back of each side, with an entrance at each end. On the ground floor were toilets and a shop. The upper floor would have been furnished with banquette seating and offered 374 seats across two restaurants: a coffee bar/café and a grill/café. The buildings were intended to be light and airy, with natural daylight coming through, and a "warm and comfortable" appeal.

Most interesting was that the westbound sliproad onto the M4 would have gone through the middle of the amenity building. They called the sliproad layout "simple and direct", although the Ministry went for "confusing and long".

The rest area would have been landscaped with soil dug out to create the rest of the site. It would have had a snack bar which had access from North Hyde Lane.

It was the poor financial offer which really held this proposal back - it came last of the qualifying examples.

Regent Oil

Having had bids for Trowell, Hilton Park and Aust all rejected, Regent tried their hand at Heston.

In this case, their financial offer and traffic flow were "poor", while their buildings "left a lot to be desired". A small 17 foot cafeteria provided both self-help and waitress service catering in one place. The landscaping was at least good, and the Ministry approved of the buildings being at the back of the site.

Esso

Before Esso were to go on to operate Washington by change, they had their eyes on Heston. At Heston, their financial offer was fantastic - so good, in fact, that the Ministry were concerned Esso would be paying so much rent they would be running the services at a loss. This was a clever strategy: at the time, the growing motoring industry was often about getting their before your competitors. A motorway service station on the way into London would have been brilliant advertising for them.

The Ministry were sceptical of Esso's new-found enthusiasm: a few years earlier, Esso had said they weren't interested in any services. Seeing as Esso were now trying to lock themselves into a 50-year contract to pay a lot of rent for the services, the Ministry were concerned a new board member may demand that Esso makes the site profitable by cutting investment. Ironically, this happened a few years later.

The buildings offered 712 seats, with the upper level having a central kitchen with a café, on the northbound side, a restaurant and transport café. The entrance foyer had lounge seating, timber walls and a ceiling with slatted wood. There was a takeaway restaurant selling sandwiches, and toilets on each level.

Esso were most proud of their patio and terrace, which was designed to offer "complete physical and mental refreshment". It was a conservatory planted with thick trees, acting as an illuminated glass pyramid. The staircase was "timber and glazed", and covered in plants.

The rest area had a "semi-mobile kiosk".

One interesting party trick was that Esso took time to explain that the whole site was designed so that traffic flow could easily be reversed, if the UK were to start driving on the right.

A third of the site was dedicated to a vehicle repair bay, despite requirements that such facilities provide the bare minimum. The whole setup was described as "unsuitable" and the car parks poor. The Ministry decided not to fall for what they felt was an attempt to bulldoze your way into the industry and rejected it, reluctantly.

Fortes

Fortes's financial offer was good, but not the best. Their 600-seat restaurant was too small. It was assumed this was because Fortes had recently-opened the London Airport Hotel, and that this could take the high-end trade while Heston took what was left. Although clever, this idea didn't impress the Ministry who were set to gain rent from the services only.

Fortes nearly got the sympathy vote though. They had recently submitted many good designs, which had come second and lost out to another operator.

Ross

Still enjoying the success of Leicester Forest East, Ross wanted a go at Heston.

They noted that the views from the services would not be particularly interesting, but still went for a two-storey design to make the most out of it. The building would have been centrally placed, and the westbound one would have been visible from the motorway. There would have been large signs by the motorway to make up for the poor eastbound visibility.

The waitress service restaurant would have played "soft background music" to offer "complete relaxation". The toilets would have had attendants.

On the ground floor would have been toilets and offices, and a simple, self-contained transport café with its own entrance.

Due to the unusual site layout, the eastbound petrol station would have been split into a completely separate commercial and private vehicle filling areas. The rest area would have had shops and toilets.

Opening

The opening of the bids was a year late, as the local authority had been very difficult to get approval from. Ministers wanted it open in time for the motorway in 1965 but this was missed significantly. In their bid, Granada suggested temporary buildings be provided at first, but this idea was rejected, as was the idea of a phased opening.

Granada had won the contract and typically they wanted to build a big service area here, despite the government policy preferring smaller services. They argued that a lot of local traffic would be stopping for a meal. Although this suggestion was accepted, they were still told to down-size their plans, to such an extent that the whole building needed to be redesigned, instead building long, thin blocks. They originally wanted 500 seats across four restaurants on both sides, the biggest being the self-service café.

The services cost them £500,000 to build. They had won because their financial offer - once you ruled out the ridiculous - was the most promising. The Ministry were reluctant to let a large firm win another contract, they were also concerned by how late Toddington had opened and how difficult Granada had been to work with over it, but they accepted their plans were one of the best and that the result at Toddington had been "a good showing".

The petrol stations opened on 21 February 1967, westbound building on 21 November 1967 and eastbound building on 3 January 1968. It was opened by the then Miss England, in a stunt designed to advertise the services' proximity to London and to Heathrow.

The large grill restaurant, which was imported from Frankley, soon closed due to low demand from commuters, a struggle which Granada was having at the time. A large coffee shop instead opened here in 1977, and a self-service shop was built here too. The restaurant was a large l-shaped room, part of which was curtained off for lorry drivers. It was brightly decorated with red and white tiling.

Shortly after opening the eastbound services were described by architects as "disastrous, cramped and desolate". The larger westbound services fared better, only being called "harsh".

Today, the rest area is beyond the Rear Access and is therefore supposedly out-of-bounds, but plenty of industrial units are advertised down there.

Fire

On 28 May 1981 the westbound services were destroyed in a fire and had to be rebuilt. The replacement building uses a corridor with an atrium roof and facilities branching off it, instead of the long-room design used on the eastbound side.

In the Media

It features briefly in the film 'Hot Fuzz' and was referenced in 'Gavin and Stacey', where Nessa says that she'll be "Stopping off at Heston's" and Bryn says that he "doesn't want to stop before Heston", although true pedants would have noticed that their journey from Essex to Wales wouldn't have passed the services.

Survey Results

Use with care. Outdated surveys have been included for interest only. }

In May 2012, Visit England rated the services as 3 stars. In August 2011, they gave them 2 stars.

In 2006, the services were rated at 3/5 by Holiday Which?

In 2005 and again in 2006, Heston won a five star loo award.

Heston split the critics in a 1978 government review: one calling it "rough" and another "the best".

In 1977, Egon Ronay rated the services as "poor", saying on closer inspection the bright colours are "scruffy", "dirty" and "mucky", and noting that most people were bringing their own food and eating it in their car. He did at least like that the beef curry was serving leftover hamburger meat, which he called "a gem of originality".

Alternatives

Previous:Next:
noneServices on the M4 Reading (32 miles)
Toddington (M1 north, 41 miles)
Beaconsfield (M40 north, 15 miles)
South Mimms (M25 north, 30 miles)
Clacket Lane (M25 south, 44 miles)
Fleet (M3 south, 26 miles)
Pease Pottage (M23 south, 49 miles)
noneMoto services Reading (32 miles)
Toddington (M1 north, 41 miles)
Pease Pottage (M23 south, 49 miles)

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