Severn View services
|Facilities | Rating | Reviews|
|Road:||M48 at J1|
(also accessible to traffic on the A403 and the B4461 and not far from the M4)
MAP AND DIRECTIONS
M48 Service Area
Aust Motorway Services Area
|Telephone number:||01454 632851|
|Signposted from the road?||As Costa/Burger King|
|Previous operators:||Top Rank, Pavilion, Granada|
|Services type:||Single site located at a junction.|
|Visit Severn View/Moto's official website|
Possibly the windiest service area known to man, Severn View is a historic and now slightly neglected site alongside the original Severn Bridge. Despite its name, it is not actually immediately adjacent to the bridge, the river or the motorway junction, though it is connected to all three by public footpaths.
Restaurants: Burger King, Costa, Costa Express Shops: WHSmith Main Amenities: Dog Walking Area, Ecotricity Electric Vehicle Charging Point, Games Arcade, Picnic Tables, Showers Motel: Travelodge Forecourt: BP, Shop, Costa Express, Air1 AdBlue
First two hours free for all vehicles, after which cars must pay £12.50 and HGVs £17, or £18.50 to include a £9 food voucher.
Prices are paid using PayByPhone - more details. The location code is 2460.
The fees are strictly enforced by CP Plus.
Trivia and History
The services have changed a lot since they opened, when it was known as 'Aust'. Back then they could be found off M4 J21, and in 1978 a government report said it was one of the largest service stations, with seating for almost 1000 people. As well as offering a large grass area, the building backed on to the River Severn (hence its modern name Severn View). Everybody loved it.
Magor services were built before the Second Severn Crossing, which meant there was no need for any new services when the new bridge opened.
For all its flaws, the services are still probably the best place to park for accessing the Severn Bridge, but remember the two-hour free parking limit and is an ideal service station if you need to get change to use the toll bridge.
These were the first services that were built as a single site on a junction. Originally the idea hadn't been considered as the online arrangement used everywhere else worked fine, but something different was needed here so as to get the benefits of the view without compromising the engineering of the motorway too much. Consequently, the original services were much further from the junction than at other similar designs.
Operators were invited to bid to design a service area here, but after a rejected offer from Regent Oil, only two responded. The Ministry of Transport believed this was because the initial predicted traffic levels here were lower than at other services, and also the contract included a requirement to operate a breakdown recovery service over the Severn Bridge. Despite the low traffic levels, the services needed large facilities to account for a large spike in traffic during the holiday period.
Although Top Rank's bid was the stronger of the two, keen to avoid congestion on the sliproads, they engineered an overpass within the car park, which would have pushed costs up significantly. The Ministry were also expecting designs to include a large bay window to take advantage of the views to the west. Rank were therefore asked to rethink their standard window design. The third flaw in the original plan was that Rank had taken the responsibility to keep the bridge moving to their heart, and had offered to fit the entire bridge with CCTV. They were told this was unnecessary for a system which was only expected to be needed twice a week.
The second bidder was Blue Star who, aware of the unpredictable traffic levels, submitted a very safe bid which didn't offer enough of a return. They had, however, detailed their fictitious menu for the services.
Rank were invited to submit a revised design and won the contract. As with all their services, the building was a large box-shape which was noticeable as you approached it on the motorway. The design, which was sensitive to local environmental concerns, makes the building look like it only has one storey whereas in reality it had three.
The design of the amenity building is perhaps best summed up by the architects themselves:
The staff room, kitchens, stores, offices and the service area Manager's flat all occupy a lower ground floor level with lift service to a servery between the two restaurants.
The two restaurants have large windows facing west and south with extensive views of the bridge. Both have external terraces, the terrace leading to the cafeteria is directly accessible from the picnic area. The whole public room level is provided with a plenum system of ventilation and heating.The standard of finishes throughout the public room is high, with double glazing, panelling and carpet in the main restaurant.
There was also a lengthy shelter leading to the entrance, allowing passengers to be dropped off close to the door. Externally, the long sliproad was designed to look like a private driveway, with the bridge as a backdrop.
In reality, the lower level facilities were almost always closed, with customers directed to the more expensive restaurant upstairs. This created a depressing welcome. Most didn't bother climbing the lengthy staircase, and with an escalator apparently too expensive, Rank trialled a series of vans to deliver ice creams from the fields. A subway to the lower level was almost always unused, and posters for Rank theatres inside were frequently vandalised. This subway was later incorporated into the main building.
Among those who did use it, the large upper-level restaurant was popular, with many parties booking tables in advance. Theft of ashtrays was high and stopped only when Rank started to brand them.
The main facilities were named Grand Prix Grill, Severn Buffet and Coffee Shop (long before coffee shops became commonplace). Later on, the front of the ground-level of the services had an ice cream parlour and a shop branded LA Leathers. Under Pavilion, they turned it into a restaurant and game arcade.
Such a design, with a large foyer and grand building, quickly fell out of fashion as being too difficult to maintain during quieter periods, and unnecessarily expensive.
With the large parking areas making a long distance between the services and the lorry park, a Trucker's Café was built by the lorry park.
Closure and Change of Building
When Granada took over Pavilion in 1995, they were allowed to do so on the basis that Aust would be sold or closed when the new Severn Bridge opened the next year. However, when the bridge opened Granada didn't sell the services, and even issued leaflets telling motorists it's the "same services, different road".
This didn't attract much custom, but it must have been enough to stop Granada from closing or selling the services. Instead, they repeatedly applied for permission to move or redevelop parts of the services, which included plans to replace the building with housing, storage facilities, car dealers and a motorway maintenance compound. In around 1999 they moved the main services to an extended Trucker's Café and then set about selling the surplus building, eventually convincing the Highways Agency that it wasn't necessary. The car park was then moved to the former parking area, HGVs moved to a former parking area and the overflow car park closed.
In 2000 there were plans to double the size of the new building, leaving space for larger facilities, but this was never needed.
In 2000/2001 Motion Media bought the former services and car park and moved in. They then sold it to the Brightside Group. Both the car park and the building (now painted in a green not too dissimilar to what Pavilion would have used) are very similar to how they'd have been in the days of Aust. Similarly, keen enthusiasts will notice a strange appearance to the remaining service area as most of what's left has been forgotten.
Although Severn View no longer offers a view of the Severn, it is connected to a series of footpaths and the National Cycle Network. These paths pass through Brightside's property and run along the estuary, over the toll booths and along the bridge.
Use with care. Outdated surveys have been included for interest only.
In May 2012 and August 2011, Visit England rated the services as 2 stars.
In 2006 the services won a four star loo award.
Also in 2006, Holiday Which? rated the services as a 2/5.
In 1977, Egon Ronay rated the services as "appalling". When he visited only the café was open, which was very quiet, had rude staff, dirty toilets, and served him soup with a "striking resemblance to gloss paint". He did note that the café was "cinema-like" in its design and décor, and offered "a fine view".
By contrast, in 1974 he said the restaurant was "the most tempting motorway restaurant in England".
|none on M48|
Leigh Delamere (M4 east, 23 miles)
Michaelwood (M5 north, 13 miles)
Gordano (M5 south, 13 miles)
|Services on the M48||
none on M48|
Magor (M4 west, 11 miles)
|Leigh Delamere (M4 east, 23 miles)||Moto services||Swansea (M4 west, 69 miles)|
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