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History of Heart of Scotland (Harthill) services

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Harthill.jpg
Photos of the services in the 1970s.

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Originally named Harthill services, Heart of Scotland was the first service area in Scotland when it opened in 1971 (a date which was announced on a plaque in the hallway).

Its design was modelled closely on the existing English service stations at the time, which was quickly found to be far too large for the actual demand. The motorway here was short and used mainly by commuters who were not staying long in the car park or restaurant.

The original eastbound building had two storeys, with a long, heavy bridge linking in with it, looking tall amongst the flat landscape.

Highway Restaurants Limited and Alan Pond

The services were opened by Highway Restaurants Limited, which was a consortium between caterers Trust Houses and fuel retailers Blue Star. The Blue Star name was used on signs. They encountered financial difficulties, and within a few years they only had the eastbound restaurant open.

Local fuel retailer Alan Pond took over, and opened a westbound café, a new eastbound café and an eastbound transport drivers' café. Despite their enthusiasm, Alan Pond struggled to keep it running. In 1979 the operator made an agreement to pay a reduced rent, close half the facilities, stop their breakdown service, and close at night, and it still made a loss. Vandalism became an increasing problem too.

Catering

The large two-storey eastbound amenity building had a restaurant with high ceilings and large windows, divided into two areas. At the far end was the Inshore Fisherman, a small area roped off by trelliswork hung with fishing nets, glass floats and plastic lobsters. It was a waitress service restaurant with a fish and chip-shop inspired menu, mainly fresh fish - which at the time was a rarity on the motorway. This was the only 24 hour offer.

The larger area was the main café, whose décor was more plain and functional, selling food which was unashamedly frozen. The self service counter lead off at right angles from the main seating area and had a separate entrance from the hallway. A red-with-bits-of-blue colour scheme was used.

Roadchef and Harthill 2

The old Roadchef restaurant.

Roadchef, keen to expand their business with new sites, took over and replaced the old, two-storey amenity building with a smaller one in 1987. This left the old bridge standing on its own, disconnected from the services.

Held back by low custom and their own lack of investment, this new building still went on to become one of the dirtiest sites in the country. In particular the bridge, which now stood on its own and looked like part of a 1960s car park, filled with graffiti and attracted undesirable behaviour.

Roadchef had planning permission for a motel here but it wasn't built.

BP and the third effort

The old bridge and new services.

In 2006, the services were taken over by BP who decided the best move would be to spend £4.1 million completely rebuilding it, giving it a new name in the process.

After much debate the archaic bridge was finally replaced by a modern, state-of-the-art one, which was lifted in to place on the night of the 3rd October by the largest mobile crane in Europe. There are photos of it above and BBC News has footage of the new bridge being lifted in to place.

The old bridge has now been demolished. The new, much more attractive one, allowed the services to double-up as a park and ride facility.


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