COVID-19 Service Station Updates
Almost all motorway and A-road service areas are open, and will continue to be unless they are advised differently by the British and/or Irish governments.
As HGV drivers are categorised as "essential workers" owing to the role they play in delivering goods, service stations should continue to provide the bare minimum facilities. Those facilities are free toilets, free parking, a place to buy a snack, and fuel; all available 24 hours a day on the motorway (reduced opening hours on some A-roads).
On 20 March 2020, the UK government required all sit-down restaurants to close. Service stations are allowed to continue operating takeaway units only, however, most food brands have insisted that their branches be closed. In summary:
- Moto have confirmed that only their M&S Simply Food, WHSmith, petrol station and toilet/shower facilities will be open.
- Welcome Break are running a similar service, with Waitrose, WHSmith, the petrol station and toilet/shower facilities. They remind us that their petrol stations sell some hot food; their shops sell machine coffee, and their shops are currently accepting HGV meal vouchers.
- Roadchef are providing Spar, WHSmith, petrol station and toilet facilities. They are providing 4 hours free parking (instead of 2), and discounted HGV parking for £15. They are said to be arranging microwaves for HGV drivers to cook meals.
- Euro Garages have closed all their food-to-go concessions, but not the petrol station shops.
- Westmorland say they are selling some takeaway food.
One notable exception:
- Bothwell is the only motorway service area to be fully closing after 10pm (until 6am), due to staffing difficulties. The toilets, showers and EG Group's petrol stations are all closed during this time. Roadchef state that overnight HGV parking here will be free until this is resolved.
- All McDonald's have closed.
- All Supermac's have closed (but not Plaza Group petrol stations).
- All Wild Bean Cafes (BP petrol station cafés) have closed.
- Non-motorway Starbucks and all Costa, Greggs, Burger King, KFC and Subway stores have all closed. Essentially this means that at A-road services, only the petrol station will be open.
- BP are offering free fuel to emergency service vehicles at their company-owned sites. Moto are taking part in this offer.
We will update this page as the situation develops.
What if service stations have to fully close?
There has been no suggestion that service stations will have to close, although things do keep changing quickly.
At the most, it is more likely that a few individual service stations will have to close due to localised issues. These closures will be reported on the electronic signs above the motorway (where available).
It is likely that some of the very small A-road service stations will close earlier than normal, without fanfare. You should be very cautious if you'll be relying on those without checking with them first.
Messages From The Operators
Some operators have sought to reassure customers that their facilities are quieter and cleaner than usual, due to the quieter roads and increased attention to hygiene. Customers are reminded to take steps to reduce the possible spread of the virus, especially in the dining areas.
- Moto has a dedicated page for updates on how COVID-19 is affecting its facilities.
- Roadchef has a statement on their response to COVID-19.
- Circle K has published a statement on its response to COVID-19.
In addition, several operators have pledged to offer specially discounted drinks to NHS workers. These are (in order of the announcement): Circle K, Applegreen, Roadchef, Moto, Welcome Break, EG Group.
Message From The Government
The UK's Department for Transport are understood to be in close communication with service station operators to ensure essential facilities are provided for HGV drivers. The Irish Independent reports that Britain's Secretary of State for Transport has asked Welcome Break to re-open some of their food brands.
This doesn't mean that it will happen; it just shows that communication is happening. Welcome Break are probably not the only operator to have been speaking to the Secretary of State for Transport; they just happen to have Irish owners so are more relevant to that publication.
Message From Us
We appreciate that the current environment is difficult for everybody, including both those who's lives have been disrupted and those who are expected to carry on as normal.
Not much has been said about the staff who work at service stations. Many will have their own concerns about their own health risk; many will be worried about their friends or family; and many will find the current working environment stressful.
Yet they are still turning up every day to do their job; to meet their employer's obligation to provide a service and to make sure that the place follows all the current health guidelines. To them, and to those of you who are being kind to them: thank you.