Services Which Have Changed Direction
This page was written in 2009. Developments referred to may have changed since - follow the links for the latest information.
As the motorway network has developed and changed, so have many of the motorway services that were built to serve it. This page charts some of the most significant changes and closures which have happened.
Those that shrunk
The unused restaurant.
Perhaps the most iconic of those to be featured on this page, Aust is now better known by its Sunday name of Severn View. This is where the problems begin.
Severn View suffered probably the biggest and most well-documented fall from grace of any service area, in being moved from a busy and popular location looking over the Severn Estuary to, following a drop in trade, a small shack in the old lorry park. This was always going to be a downwards spiral because, with no-one wanting to go past in the first place, it was going to be hard to attract more people to an increasingly poorer site.
Arguably this is the most painful disaster ever to befall a motorway service area, but it is also perhaps the most necessary. It all happened despite a series of leaflets trying to encourage people to visit this majestic service area, the sort of thing not seen since the late 1960s.
Although all slightly different, particularly Barnsdale Bar's roots in the early 1960s excitement of it all, these four all share a similar story. They aimed to cater for an apparently rising number of trunk road users, apparently wanting full service area facilities.
These customers didn't really materialise and, in line with the shrinking number of rural restaurants, this idea never really took off. Peartree almost made this list until it was thrown a lifeline and had new life breathed into it by Welcome Break.
You could ask that if there's a format that works for Peartree why isn't there one for the others, but frankly there isn't enough time for Welcome Break to go around resuscitating every struggling TRSA out there every time customer's demands change.
This one only makes the list out of sympathy. It was supposed to be a motorway service area but only ever made it as a group of buildings imposing as a TRSA. Must try harder.
Burtonwood westbound after it was closed.
A triumph of optimism over practicality, Burtonwood was always known as "that half-derelict place near Liverpool". It was an early sufferer of Severn View Syndrome, where people would actively avoid it, meaning Welcome Break felt inclined to put few resources into it.
Eventually the westbound side was finally kicked into the grass and, after being left abandoned for a while, was demolished. All customers are sent to the eastbound side in a project referred to as "consolidation of facilities". This lit the path for a complete refurbishment and so far, so good.
Technically, they built this one twice, but the important thing is that this is another one that has gone from two overgrown buildings to one tiny one.
Whether or not the new building meets people's needs is irrelevant, the fact is it's only a shadow of its former self. A bit like Severn View only not so bad.
It's not so much a service area as a piece of tarmac. In its defence, it was never really finished, started or thought about.
When Welcome Break abandoned this one in 2003, there wasn't much hope for it, and it was just left to cater for itself and slowly cave in. It is likely to be rejuvenated soon, but until then it can have a place on this list of shame.
Those that closed
Rainton, awaiting demolition.
These three get a mention because they're the only ones we can still remember, but many service areas have been lost to road upgrades. Blyth was a bit different because it lost out to a larger place of the same name.
Another Welcome Break TRSA, which was eventually swallowed up by the neighbouring retail park who managed to do much more with it. TRSAs appear to be a regular feature on this list.
It's actually very rare for a full service area to fully close - this one only went with a little bit of persuasion from one of the elements.
Those that were so good they built them twice
Moto, Cherwell Valley mk. II
What do these four have in common? They were all burnt down. In the long term this seems to have been quite convenient, as it allowed them to be replaced by something which, according to the planning statement, was umpteen times better.
You wouldn't recognise Birch, Cherwell Valley or South Mimms from their predecessors, and they still seem to be fit-for-purpose. Heston is now elderly again.
Not just yet, but Kinross is due to be completely rebuilt, which makes you wonder what else could be on the cards around the country if picking one of your quieter services and building it again is now considered to be a practical option.
It seems quite obvious that you can do a lot of good by taking something that doesn't meet your needs and replacing it with something that does, but there is very little precedence for this sort of thing.
It happened to Northampton and the two new buildings still seem to be serving it now, and have saved Roadchef refurbishing them several times further down the line.
Inside the newer building at Strensham.
The southbound services echo Northampton's story but the whole northbound side was actually picked up and moved half a mile up the road, in order to make more space as it was dangerously close to the previous junction. If at first you don't succeed...
The two sides at Strensham were rebuilt different times and it shows. Even so, this means Strensham can claim to be one of the oldest services around (construction on it started before any motorway service area had opened) and one of the newest.
Like all just about every service area you would struggle to recognise Watford Gap from how it first looked as so much work has been done to it, but in this case this work includes flattening and rebuilding it in the 1980s. There isn't much more to say about this but we wanted to include it because, y'know, it's Watford Gap.