According to the latest Motorway Services User Survey conducted by Transport Focus, most motorway service areas (MSAs) in Britain are doing a good job. The independent transport user watchdog, Transport Focus, spoke to more than 31,000 visitors at 119 motorway services about their views on the toilets, staff, value of the food and drink, electric vehicle charging, and the impact their visit had on drivers’ mood.
According to the survey, which covered MSAs operated by Moto, Extra, Roadchef, Euro Garages, Welcome Break and Stop 24, the Rugby service area on the M6, run by Moto, was the highest rated.
In the survey’s fifth year, motorway service operators performed well overall, with 93 per cent of visitors happy with their visit. One hundred per cent of visitors were satisfied with their visit to Rugby services, the newest site on the motorway network. It also came out on top as the site visitors were most likely to recommend to someone making a similar journey and the highest satisfaction with the toilets at 99 per cent.
Transport Focus surveyed motorway services visitors in Scotland and Wales operated by Roadchef and Welcome Break for the first time. Sarn Park (Welcome Break) is the highest rated services in Wales (97 per cent), and Hamilton (Roadchef) is the highest rated in Scotland (94 per cent).
Anthony Smith, chief executive of the independent watchdog Transport Focus, said: “As many people gear up for a half-term getaway, motorway services provide a great place to stop and take a break. Many of us, when we think services, think about stopping for a toilet break – it’s reassuring to see that these are consistently highly rated. Our survey shows motorway service operators deliver good overall customer experience and facilities, but visitors don’t always feel they get value for money. Services continue to do a good job of their most important safety function – allowing drivers to rest and relax before getting back on the road.”
The key findings of the survey were:
- Staff at the services are considered helpful and friendly, with nine in ten visitors rating them positively
- Eighty-eight per cent of visitors were satisfied with the toilets. Extra and Roadchef had the highest ratings for toilets, both at 93 per cent
- Value for money continues to be the key area for improvement – 63 per cent of visitors thought the food or drink available to eat in the services was value for money
- Stopping at the services has a positive impact on drivers’ mood, with almost one in three arriving saying they feel tired, stressed or frustrated, down to less than one in ten after the visit
- HGV drivers were the least satisfied overall, at 88 per cent
- Users charging electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles rated the payment options at the services highly (91 per cent). Still, they gave lower ratings for value for money (68 per cent) and online information (73 per cent).
The highest-rated motorway services were Rugby (Moto M6), Donnington Park (Moto M1), Blackburn (Extra M65) and Strensham North (Roadchef M5).
The lowest rated were Hartshead Moor East (Welcome Break M62), Lancaster South (Moto M6), Charnock Richard South (Welcome Break M6) and Birchanger Green (Welcome Break M11).
Contrast with the Which Survey
The Transport Focus survey contrasts with a Which survey of motorway services published in September. The Which survey found that the top three service areas were all run by Westmoreland, a company not included in the Transport Focus survey. The services at Gloucester, Tebay and Cairn Lodge run by Westmoreland came out top, with the Norton Canes Roadchef services on the M6 toll road in fourth place.
The Which report noted, “It’s a disservice to describe the stop between junctions 11A and 12 on the M5 as a service station. Unlike the dreary buildings often found on motorways, Gloucester Services has a designer feel, with a roof carpeted in grass and the splash of a pond out the front of its floor-to-ceiling windows. You can enjoy the view while tucking into homecooked meals such as fish and chips and steak and ale pie. You can also buy local produce from the fabulous farm shop, including bread to rival any baker and regional cheeses, such as Hereford Hop. No wonder visitors called it an essential part of a journey through Gloucestershire.”
This contrasted with the worst service area, the Bridgwater services operated by Moto on the M5. The survey commented, “Don’t stop at Bridgwater. Even if you’re desperate for the toilet. Not only is it terrible, but by the time you’ve left the M5, navigated two roundabouts, found a space in the cramped split-level car park and contended with the confusing layout and crowds inside, you may as well have driven the extra 12 miles to either Sedgemoor (52%) or Taunton Dean (57%) services.”