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Lancaster services

Facilities | Rating | ReviewsLancaster
Road:M6 between J32 and J33

Address:Granada Lancaster
Forton Motorway Service Area M6
Bay Horse
Telephone number:01524 791775
Signposted from the road?As Burger King/Costa/M&S
Previous operators:Rank, Pavilion, Granada
Previous names:Forton, Lancaster (Forton)
Grid reference:SD502520
Services type:Two sites located between junctions, connected by an internal bridge.
Visit Lancaster Northbound/Moto's official website
Visit Lancaster Southbound/Moto's official website
Forton Services Website

Quite possibly the most iconic service station of all, Lancaster is famous for its large tower sticking out of the northbound building (see trivia). Today, Lancaster has been moved around quite a bit and the toilets are now upstairs. The tower is closed to the public.


Catering: Burger King, Costa, Eat & Drink Co., Lavazza coffee, Costa Express, Krispy Kreme
northbound only: West Cornwall Pasty Co.
southbound only: Greggs
Shops: Cotton Traders, Fone Bitz, Ladbrokes, M&S Simply Food, WHSmith Main Amenities: Ecotricity Electric Vehicle Charging Point, Lucky Coin, Showers, Multi Faith Room, Children's Play Area Motel: Travelodgebook Forecourt: BP (with: LPG), Shop, Costa Express, Air1 AdBlue
northbound only: Greggs

Parking Prices

First two hours free for all vehicles, after which cars must pay £12.50 and HGVs £19.50, or £21 to include a £9 food voucher.

Prices are paid using PayByPhone - more details. The location code is 2448 (northbound) and 2449 (southbound).

The fees are strictly enforced by CP Plus.

Trivia and History

For many years the name 'Forton services' was used on all example diagrams of road signs, including drawings of non-motorway signs. The services used to be listed by the Highways Agency as an "approved truckstop", but this is no longer the case.


Lancaster was opened in 1965 by Rank under the name 'Forton'. The petrol station opened early in January as the motorway was also finished early, and the northbound amenities in November. Much of the southbound building wasn't built until the late 1980s. Forton had paid a significant sum to accelerate the speed of construction of the services to be ready for the motorway, despite being under no obligation to.

Shortly after opening, the services struggled to recruit staff. In 1966 the southbound restaurant was used to trial automated catering. The initially reluctant Ministry of Transport were won round by the idea, but Rank weren't - they removed them due to low demand.

The agreed initial rent on these services was the highest of any 1960s service station. However, it was the only one to use a constant revenue curve, and the rent did not increase as custom did, meaning in the long-term it could have been one of the cheapest. At £885,000, it was the most expensive service station they built, despite only an investment of £250,000 being required by the contract.

When Granada eventually grasped hold of the services, they renamed it to 'Lancaster'. Unusually, Granada later changed this to 'Lancaster (Forton)' - it's not clear whether dropping the name Forton resulted in a drop of trade or just upset a few of the services's fans. This name stuck around for about a decade, but Moto are now slowly dropping the 'Forton' part leaving just 'Lancaster'. The Highways Agency still refer to it as 'Lancaster (Forton)' when there is an incident at the services.

Internal Alterations

One of the original southbound entry steps. A second set opposite is now inside a unit.

Extensions to the lower area of the northbound building added a shop and early fast food unit, later becoming La Brioche Doree. An additional retail extension from Granada created space for retail stores, which from 2007 consists of WHSmith, M&S Simply Food and Costa, with additional space created by the toilets moving upstairs. Burger King is now the main upstairs offer.

Downstairs, the southbound side offered three shops and a Little Chef. Little Chef became Caffe Ritazza and then Costa. Opposite it was a fast food unit which became a tourist information centre, which closed before becoming Greggs. The original shop now WHSmith. More interesting is the third unit which had inside it an additional third stairwell - now where the multi-faith room is. This is probably one of the original entrances, positioned to provide easy access to the bridge and tower. Upstairs, the main facility continues to be Burger King in a hexagon unit - once an experimental restaurant.

The southbound toilets continue to be at basement level. However, as the majority of the southbound building is a ground-level extension, the basement now only occupies a tiny portion of the building.

Pennine Tower

Inside the tower. Remnants of its days as a panoramic restaurant can just about be made out.
Inside the tower. Remnants of its days as a panoramic restaurant can just about be made out.

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This service station is almost exclusively known for the 65-foot tower attached to the northbound building, visible from afar on the north side and described in one publicity leaflet as being "a luxury observation platform".

The Pennine Tower was designed to make the services clearly visible - the ban on advertising had always been an issue, and the previous technique of having a restaurant on a bridge, like down the road at Charnock Richard, was proving expensive and impractical. The tower resembles that used by air traffic control, summarising the dreams of the '60s.

The central shaft consists of two small pentagonal lifts, still in use to get to the first floor but with the buttons for the tower usually disabled. There are then three service lifts, and one spiral staircase - satisfying typical health and safety regulations.

A curious feature about the two tiny lifts is that they operate in tandem; one is pulled up by the other coming down.

At the top of the tower stood a fine-dining waitress service restaurant, offering views over the road below and across Lancashire. Above the restaurant was a sun terrace. In reality social changes and cost-cutting limited the desirability of a sit-down meal, and this coupled with high maintenance costs made the tower fall out of favour. The 'fine dining' restaurant became the trucking lounge that had been on the first floor, before closing to the public in 1989.

It then soldiered on for another 15 years, partially re-fitted, as a head office, then staff training and storage, but even this became too impractical, and the tower is now not used at all.

Although the tower is unique to these services, the concept of large high-level floors can be seen in many Rank services of the era, the idea of each one being to have a visible landmark and a good view of the surrounding area, such as at Hilton Park. The lower-level restaurant at Forton sticks out over the first floor, and partially in to the road, to give an optimum view. Toilets and offices were in the ground floor buildings below.

A 2008 exhibition in Lancaster celebrating 50 years of the M6 included a replica of the restaurant inside the Pennine Tower as it would be if it were still trading today. At the same time a Top Gear feature used the tower to create a mocked-up image of the car park in the 1960s.

Future Of The Tower

There are lots of myths flying around that the tower was forced to close by safety regulations, and that it is about to fall down. Like any building which hasn't been used for 30 years it would take a lot of investment to get it open again, and with roadside restaurants across the country closing due to a lack of trade, nobody has come up with an convincing plan to justify investing in the Pennine Tower.

The tower was marked as a Grade II listed building in October 2012, most people thinking it had been done already, with growing momentum for something to be done to make use of it.

Acknowledging the heritage of the building and the difficulty of using it, in Spring 2016 Moto will be painting the tower in a cream colour, chosen to closely resemble its original colour. Its current colour is a corporate green, making this one of the first non-corporate decisions made by an MSA operator.

Survey Results

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

In May 2012, Visit England rated the northbound services as 3 stars and southbound as 2 stars. In August 2011, both sides were rated 3 stars.

In 2008, 2009 again in 2010 the services won a five star loo award - one of few Motos to take part in the event

In 2006 the services won a four star loo award.

Also in 2006, Holiday Which? rated the services at 4/5.

A 1978 government review described the services as "a soulless fairground".

In 1977, Egon Ronay rated the services as "appalling". The steak and kidney pie was "an insult to one's taste buds" while the apple pie was "an absolute disgrace". He said everywhere needed maintenance and a coat of paint, the toilets were smelly and dirty, and the food on display was most unattractive. The tower-restaurant's tables were neatly laid, even if the food it sold was "an insult to the public".


Charnock Richard (24 miles)
Rivington (M61, 28 miles)
Blackburn with Darwen (M65, 26 miles)
Tickled Trout (15 miles)
Services on the M6 Burton-in-Kendal (M6 northbound, 14 miles)
Killington Lake (M6 southbound, 26 miles)
Carnforth truckstop (13 miles
Lymm (48 miles)
Birch (M62, 41 miles)
Moto services Burton-in-Kendal (M6 northbound, 14 miles)
Southwaite (64 miles)

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