Motorway Services Online

Toddington services

Toddington
Moto
Facilities | Rating | ReviewsToddington
Road:M1 between J11 and J12

MAP AND DIRECTIONS
Address:Moto Ltd
Toddington
Dunstable
Bedfordshire
LU5 6HR
Telephone number:01525 878400
Signposted from the road?Yes
Opened:1964
Previous operators:Granada
Grid reference:TL030287
Services type:Two sites located between junctions, connected by a pedestrian footbridge.
Visit Toddington Northbound/Moto's official website
Visit Toddington Southbound/Moto's official website
Foursquare

Enriched with facilities but not good looks, Toddington is a busy service area and the first in a while for traffic heading from the M25.

Facilities

Restaurants: Burger King, Costa, Eat & Drink Co., Greggs, Costa Express, Krispy Kreme
northbound only: West Cornwall Pasty Co.
Shops: Fone Bitz, M&S Simply Food, WHSmith
northbound only: Cotton Traders
Main Amenities: Ecotricity Electric Vehicle Charging Point, Full Hou$e, Lucky Coin, NomadPower, Showers, Changing Places
northbound only: Truck Wash
southbound only: Multi Faith Room
Motel: Travelodgebook - on the southbound side but accessible to northbound traffic Forecourt: BP (with: LPG), Shop, Costa Express, Krispy Kreme, Air1 AdBlue
northbound only: Greggs
southbound only: Costa

Parking Prices

First two hours free for all vehicles, after which cars must pay £12.50 and HGVs £22, or £23.50 to include a £9 food voucher.

Prices are paid using PayByPhone - more details. The location code is 2469 (northbound) and 2470 (southbound).

The fees are strictly enforced by CP Plus.

Trivia and History

The head office for Granada services and later Moto, this combined with it being a very busy service station has meant it has often been used as a test bed by the firms for new ideas. Previously Granada used Heston and London.

Even today it is arguably one of Moto's busiest sites, helped by the fact that there aren't many services to the south-west. Plans for services at Redbourn were objected to by Granada and refused.

Planning

Originally, Toddington was held as an infill site, being used only as a works unit until more facilities were required. One year after opening, the nearest services at Newport Pagnell were heavily overused, and complaints were being received from motorists expecting services nearer London. It became clear that the site reserved at Toddington was going to be far too small.

With Redbourn unable to be used and no alternatives available, an urgent search was carried out closer to Newport Pagnell. Sites were identified at Coles Farm (unable to be used because of public right of way issues), Stockwood Park (too close to Toddington), The Aubrey's (would have been very expensive as the rear access would have needed to bridges over a railway line), Breakspears (a private motel development had already been rejected there) and Pepperstock (ready to use).

Bedfordshire County Council objected to Pepperstock, and with extra capacity urgently needed, the Ministry said they would "regretfully" start building Toddington - regretful because it was far too small for what was needed, but would at least work as a stop-gap until something better came along. "Something better" eventually came in the form of Scratchwood.

Tendering Process

Initially, all operators' proposals here were rejected for not being good enough, mainly because they had deliberately ignored the maintenance compound here. One of the rejected bidders was J Lyons & Co. On the second tender, Granada built the services in 1965 as their first motorway service station, since they were looking to expand their role in the hospitality industry. Forte were declined the contract for the services specifically because of their poor design work at Keele.

The bridge for the services was built with the motorway and before the services, but this later proved to be a nuisance, with most of the applicants suggesting it be removed or become a restaurant. The government had specifically stated they would reject any bridge-restaurant proposals as these were falling out of favour.

Several smaller businesses were written to, to try to get some variety going here. Kenwell Motor Services said they wanted a more northern site, while International Caters Ltd did not want a motorway site. Quite aptly, a firm called Busy Bee Cafe declined the site because they were too busy.

The brief suggested that the largest facilities should be on the southbound side, to counter the layout of Newport Pagnell.

Early Days

Unlike the other operators who at the time focused on being big and brash, Granada wanted to achieve its task with as much simplicity as possible. Toddington consisted of two two-storey buildings, each with a waitress-service restaurant upstairs, and a supplementary shop outside.

It was still bigger than expected. This proved to be an unwelcome trait of Granada, but at Toddington the Ministry allowed it as Newport Pagnell would be difficult to expand and services to the south would be difficult to plan. Secretly, Granada were hoping to open a chain of larger-than-permitted services which would offer them a monopoly, but the long construction time at Toddington caused the Ministry to halt their plans for expansion.

The two-storey plan later proved to be a nuisance, by hiding ancillary facilities in a second storey they were under-used, so the restaurant was later moved downstairs and upstairs relegated to office-space. Government inspectors soon described it as "brash" and "garish", while international architects settled for "appalling" and "a tarmac wasteland".

In 1968, disappointing traffic levels meant Granada wanted to sell the services. The much larger southbound side was carrying less trade, and running a loss. The grill in particular was quiet yet known for its very slow service.

Things began to improve and refurbishment in 1974 made Toddington the first service station with a "free-flow snack supermarket layout", which was described by a design journal as an "interesting initiative" that promises "promises a much improved service to the public". This was the first project which aimed to reduce the amount of time each customer spent actually inside the amenity building, which, 30 years later, became the basis of most service station planning.

Instead of aiming exclusively for fine-dining, Granada wanted everyone to be covered, meaning some found it tacky and distasteful. Granada wanted to sell souvenirs and leather goods, and considered adding a car wash.

The new Granada Chef waitress restaurant had brown, orange and red décor, and tables laid with paper place mats.

Growth and Stagnation

Some of the low-level extensions to the services.

By 1985, the services claimed to be the largest of their kind in Europe. In 1987 a motel opened which was branded Travelodge.

Other facilities offered included a Burger Express, and something called a 'picnic building'.

Development slowed down in the 1990s, and Granada acknowledged the services were run-down, but claimed they didn't want to develop them as they didn't know what affect the widening of the M1 would have on the services.

Eventually the services were safeguarded, and Granada went on to fight competition from Redbourn by proposing that a second storey be added to their car park, and that gaps left by past expansions of the amenity building be filled to provided a larger Burger King, and a new Little Chef.

Retail Expansion

As Granada's focus moved from rest and relaxation to retail, further ground-level extensions were made. Proposals included Granada 2Go and a Burger King drive thru, but what they got was shops including Scoop, Halfords, T2 and Birthdays.

Under Moto, M&S Simply Food and WHSmith stores were both trialled here, as was the idea of using the Travelodge to offer 'power naps'.

Recent Changes

The last surviving Little Chef on the motorway network, built in 1996.

The Little Chef here was the last to leave the motorway network, lasting until 2010. It may well have lasted a little longer as Moto wanted to set up a Costa stand at the entrance to the services, but those plans were refused as inappropriate development, so Costa took over Little Chef instead.

In July 2010, The Barber Shop on the southbound side, situated in a portakabin in the car park, closed down and then reopened in December 2011 as a Faith Room.

Survey Results

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

In May 2012 and August 2011, Visit England rated the services as 3 stars.

The wide variety of shops was praised by Lord Adonis (Secretary of State for Transport) during his surprise visit in September 2009.

The services were inspected by the AA on the 24th and 25th of March 2007. These are their results:

Category:Rating:
Road safety and parking:Acceptable
Outdoor facilities:Very Poor
Access and indoor facilities:Good
Catering:Acceptable
Shop:Very Good
Family Friendliness:Very Poor
Service:Poor
Hygiene:Acceptable
Pricing:Acceptable
Final Score:Poor

The services were said to be well priced(!) with secure, clean facilities, but the staff were poor and there was very little to smile about outside. The AA said that the poor result could be down to the fact that the services were being refurbished at the time they were inspected and they would improve afterwards.

In 2006, Toddington was rated 4/5 by Holiday Which?

In 2005 and again in 2006 the services won a five-star loo award.

In 1977 Egon Ronay graded the waitress restaurant as "acceptable" and the self-service café as "poor". He said the services were very well maintained and ran, but catering relied on poor-quality convenience food.

Alternatives

Previous:Next:
London Gateway (26 miles
South Mimms (M25 east, 25 miles)
Heston (M4 east, 38 miles)
Reading (M4 west, 61 miles)
Services on the M1 Newport Pagnell (15 miles)
none on M1
Heston (M4 east, 38 miles)
Reading (M4 west, 61 miles)
Moto services none nearby

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AA survey results from the Automobile Association, you can view the full report and what they were looking for in this PDF document.