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Rear Access

A rear access, better known as a 'secret exit', also known as a 'rear exit' or 'side exit', is a road which allows people to get from the service area to the local road network without using the main entrance (a motorway sliproad).

Initially they were very popular and were included in all of the early services, but too many people were using them as makeshift motorway junctions, which neither the services nor the surrounding roads were built to handle. One of the most well-known examples of this is at Rothersthorpe, where so many people were using the services to access the A43 that a junction was eventually built around the services.

As of April 2008, secret exits are discouraged and new ones should be physically separated from the rest of the service area to stop people using them as a shortcut.

Why were they needed?

One of the biggest inconveniences with motorway services is that they are often in isolated locations, meaning that staff, emergency services, Highways Agency vehicles and any other visitors from the local area will usually have to drive to the nearest motorway junction and join the motorway for a couple of miles, and then to get back they have to drive a few more miles in the wrong direction before being able to turn around at the next junction.

As well as being a pain, this also creates a lot of unnecessary traffic on the motorway network and can cause problems with the operation of the service area itself, particularly with the emergency services.

There is an additional problem with motels often only being located on one side of the road, making it hard for customers on the other side to access them.

'Rear exits' also allow staff to walk, cycle or get the bus to the services.

Operation

Although there is no specific law against it, there are several legal complications with the public abusing rear accesses, as they are leaving the motorway network without passing any signs to say they have done so. For this reason, as well as the problems with safety and traffic congestion, operators are expected to prevent their 'secret exits' from being abused.

There are often signs telling people not to abuse them, but very little enforcement has been carried out on people doing so, especially as it's hard to tell them apart from legitimate users. Following pressure from councils and local residents, most operators have introduced rising bollards, barriers or number plate recognition cameras, but again enforcement is rarely carried out and they are usually left out of action. Many of them have been included on Google Street View.

Services with Rear Accesses

Here is a comprehensive list of all the services with a rear access and the road they join on to. Several unbuilt services have been included if it was clear there would have been a rear access.

M1:

M2:

M3:

M4:

M5:

M6:

M6 Toll:

M8:

M12:

M18:

M25:

M27:

M40:

M48:

M42:

M61:

M62:

A1(M):

A34:

M74/A74(M):


With thanks to 'davehammer' and SABRE for the information used on this page.

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