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Washington services

Facilities | Rating | ReviewsWashington
Road:A1(M) between J64 and J65

Washington Motorway Services Area
A1 M
Tyne and Wear
Telephone number:0191 4103436
Signposted from the road?As Costa/Burger King (northbound)
Greggs/Costa/Burger King (southbound)
Opened:1970 (southbound)
1980s? (northbound)
Previous operators:Taverna, Granada
Previous names:Washington-Birtley (Port/Virgo)
Grid reference:NZ283550
Services type:Two sites located between junctions, connected by an internal bridge.
Visit Washington Northbound/Moto's official website
Visit Washington Southbound/Moto's official website

A fairly old service area squished into the local area. The southbound site is actually located off the J64 exit sliproad, and traffic leaving the services has to cross this to rejoin the motorway.

Once dropped its fuel prices so that it was one of very few services which were competing with local garages.


Catering: Burger King, Costa, Greggs, Costa Express, Krispy Kreme Shops: WHSmith Main Amenities: Ecotricity Electric Vehicle Charging Point, Full Hou$e, Lucky Coin, Showers Motel: Travelodgebook north | book south Forecourt: BP, Shop, Costa Express, Krispy Kreme, Air1 AdBlue

Parking Prices

First two hours free for all vehicles, after which cars must pay £12.50 and HGVs £20.50, or £22 to include a £9 food voucher.

Prices are paid using PayByPhone - more details. The location code is 2474 (northbound) and 2475 (southbound).

The fees are strictly enforced by CP Plus.

Trivia and History

The 'skywalk'.

The Highways Agency have listed Washington as an "approved truckstop", something which surprisingly few service areas are. Previously the Highways Agency's approved truckstop was the Nightowl Truckstops site at the rear of the services which was accessed from the local road network.

The motorway sign for these services includes the current price of fuel, and is perhaps the only one that is still updated.

Bizarrely, of all their services, Granada wanted to trial running their own tourist information centre here, on the outskirts of Newcastle.

Oh, and to any Americans who many be reading this, this is the real Washington we're talking about.

Site and Operator

Esso already owned a petrol station here, known as Port (as in Portobello), which they were hoping to expand. When the A1 was upgraded to motorway, Esso asked if they could save the Ministry of Transport their £200,000 compensation in return for permission to build a motorway service area here. The petrol station closed on 1 June 1968. Another possible site at Pea Flatts was considered, which would have been an infill site.

Naming Contention

Much of the time planning the services was spent naming it. Esso asked if the original name could be changed because at the time motorway services held a much higher profile than ordinary petrol stations, and they felt the phrase "Esso's Port Services" could be confused with other projects they were working on.

When designing the motorway, the Ministry used a temporary name of Vigo, but then confirmed the services would be called Washington. Chester-le-Street rural District council objected to this, and wanted it to be called Birtley. After much debate, the Ministry reluctantly agreed to settle the matter by officially renaming it Washington-Birtley. When Esso found out they were not impressed, as they felt the new name was cumbersome and difficult to market, and they felt one of the names would be dropped naturally anyway.

The services did open as Washington-Birtley, but with much material referring to them as just Washington, and after some time Granada shortened the name.

Highway authorities still refer to the site by its full name.


The once-exciting walkway, now rather bleak.

The design of the building was airport inspired, aiming for modern, pan-European travellers. As part of its desire to be futuristic, the food it offered was part cooked, then put into a vending machine, where customers could buy it and take it to a microwave along with cooking instructions. This was quite novel at the time, and there were severe concerns motorists would not take well to the automated catering.

The futuristic catering was really about getting motorists in and out the building as quickly as possible, as the car park was only small. There were 420 seats in the main restaurant and 285 car parking spaces.

When it opened, the footbridge, which spans three sliproads, was the longest in the UK. The northbound side had an 'up' escalator to take people up into the "futuristic and robotic" southbound services. That western end of the footbridge still survives today, albeit with a smaller amenity building tacked onto the end of it.

In the main amenity building, visitors from the northbound side arrived on a raised walkway, offering a view over the serving area. This walkway still survives, albeit not nearly as exciting. A transport cafe existed on the lower level, although the land slope here meant this was only visible at the HGV side. This was also useful for hiding a deliveries bay. Southbound traffic had an entrance at either end, the HGV entrance involving a winding concrete sliproad.


The failure of the automated catering trial at Washington was very-much the cause of the failure of Taverna. This led to Washington being described as "a wretched state", "grossly underused" and "a very poor service". Effectively, it tried to solider on with a mish-mash of half-automated half-waitress service catering.

When Taverna were looking for a buyer in 1973, eventual owners Granada would have done anything to avoid getting Washington as part the deal, but eventually agreed to have it thrown in as Taverna were desperate to get rid of it.

A 1977 assessment of service areas concluded Washington was one of the quietest, because it is "simply in the wrong place", being too close to Newcastle.

Survey Results

In May 2012, Visit England rated the services as 3 stars. In August 2011, they gave the southbound services 3 stars and northbound 2.

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

A 1978 government review described the southbound services as "pleasant", but the northbound services and the food offer as "poor".

In 1977, Egon Ronay rated the services as "appalling". The tea was described as "like dishwater", and it wasn't very clean.


Durham (11 miles)Services on the A1(M) Seaton Burn (A1, 16 miles)
Scotch Corner (A1, 34 miles)
Barton Park Truckstop (32 miles)
Moto services none nearby

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