History of Magor services
As with all of Wales's motorway service areas, Magor was developed privately. It has since been passed between several operators.
In 1988, Whitbread and BP worked on a joint application to build a service area near here, which appeared to be to the south of the M4. This was rivalled by a joint application from Granada and Esso which was approved in 1990, and was built.
The position of the service area was chosen because Top Rank's nearby Severn View was about to lose most of its trade as the Second Severn Crossing would divert traffic away from it.
The service area opened on 8 April 1992. Ruth Madoc of the TV series 'Hi-Di-Hi' served breakfast, promoting the site and Granada's new uniform.
See also: M4 Planning Applications
When they tried to purchase Pavilion, Granada were set to gain four services in a row. As a result, they were instructed to sell Magor and Severn View, and a management buyout saw Magor change owners to First. When they owned it, First used the slogan "trying that little bit harder", which given their reputation, made you wonder whether they were trying enough.
In October 2008 First were acquired by Moto, meaning that this should have become a Moto service area, however the deal fell through. Instead First went very quiet, and in August 2011, Roadchef acquired the service area.
Esso bought the petrol station at Magor in 2009 and sold it to Rontec in 2014. It had an On the Run store, then a Shop 'n Drive store, and then it was rebranded to Spar in 2017. It used to have Rontec's only "Stop 'n Eat" counter, which was a Rontec own-brand serving hot food. It then changed fuel brand in summer 2018 from Esso to BP.
Because the filling station is under different ownership to the main amenity building, there is a history of the two opposing each others' developments. In 2009, First argued that if Esso got the expansion they wanted, First would be forced to surrender their 24 hour opening obligation and make staff redundant as a result.
Until Roadchef took over, the service area was laid out with an unusual set-up where the restaurant servery was in the centre of the building. However, the enclosed nature of the building and all the dividing walls meant the layout wasn't obvious, and it felt like a myriad of corridors with many dining options.
This has now changed and a main corridor from the entrance leads you into a variety of stores and restaurants in the centre of the services.
When Roadchef took over, they set up a new Restbite (originally it was going to be Hot Food Co.) restaurant, but didn't apply any of its branding as they intend to invest in a new Fresh Food Cafe if the sales figures allow for it.
The restaurant area also gained The Burger Company, which in March 2012 became McDonald's. The unbranded shop became WHSmith. The aim was to expand the tourist information facilities to make the service area a gateway to Wales.
There is an additional shop unit attached to the service area, with its own entrance. This became a Cotton Traders under Roadchef, but later closed and is now empty.
In 1991, whilst the service area was under construction, the Welsh Office announced plans to divert the M4 to the south of Newport. This idea has been cancelled and resurrected several times, and was back on the agenda again in 2013.
After the detail of the proposed new arrangement was published, which would have left Magor more than two miles from the nearest M4 junction, Roadchef published a detailed objection, breaking down their sales figures and arguing they would lose 80% of it. In doing so, they effectively threatened to close the services if this plan went ahead.
Roadchef also revealed that they were holding off a significant expansion to the service area until its future was clear, and asked customers to support their campaign to "Save Magor".
From a business perspective, creating as big an objection as possible is likely to improve the compensation offered, if the plans continued in that form. However as an employer Roadchef also had a duty to protect their staff, who would have been made redundant if the service area had closed.
The M4 bypass project was cancelled (again) in June 2019.
In April 2007, the members of Vans United voted Magor as the worst service station in Britain.
The services were inspected by The AA on 24 and 25 March 2007. These are their results:
|Road safety and parking:||Very Good|
|Outdoor facilities:||Very Poor|
|Access and indoor facilities:||Poor|
The services were said to be well signed with sufficient parking spaces, but there was a lack of disabled access, high prices and poor hygiene.
In 2006 Magor came near the bottom of Holiday Which?'s survey, having provided them with a "truly miserable experience". The food was condemned too.
In 2001 the services came top in an AA survey, who rated it "acceptable". They were still critical of its cleanliness.
In 2000 critic Egon Ronay praised the catering at these services, having criticised just about every other service area.