England’s best and worst motorway services revealed

An independent survey of motorists reveals the top and bottom motorway service stations

England’s best and worst motorway services have been named in a large customer survey, just as many families head away on long trips over the summer holidays.

More than places to simply fill up with fuel, motorway services have become essential rest stops over the decades, providing picnic areas, eateries, cafes and even shops where you can buy your evening meal along with magazines and CDs. Taking a break is also considered essential for road safety, with the Highway Code recommending at least 15 minutes of rest for every two hours behind the wheel.

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But according to 9,600 respondents to the Transport Focus survey, some motorway services do a better job than others at providing facilities you’ll want to spend time at. Top of the charts was Norton Canes, a Roadchef services along the M6 Toll in Staffordshire. In fact, second place was also in the county, at Stafford Southbound along the M6 and also run by Roadchef.

Wetherby services on the A1(M) in Yorkshire (operated by Moto), Hilton Park Southbound on the M6 in Staffordshire (Moto) and Corley Southbound also on the M6 in Warwickshire (Welcome Break) round out the top five and means travellers to the Midlands are spoilt for choice when it comes to having a pleasant break.

Motorists felt far less fortunate to stop at the bottom five motorway destinations, with Thurrock services on the M25 in Essex (Moto) coming last in 111th place. Toddington Southbound on the M1 in Bedfordshire (Moto), Southwaite Northbound on the M6 in Cumbria (Moto), Newport Pagnell South on the M1 in Buckinghamshire (Welcome Break) and Bridgwater along the M5 in Somerset (Moto) completed the bottom five.

Best-rated motorway services

ServicesOperatorPer cent satisfiedRankingout of 111Report ref’number
Norton Canes (M6 toll)Roadchef100%165
Stafford Southbound (M6)Roadchef99%284
Wetherby (A1 (M))Moto99%3106
Hilton Park Southbound (M6)Moto99%440
Corley Southbound (M6)Welcome Break99%520
Tebay Southbound (M6)Westmorland99%691
Pease Pottage (M23)Moto99%767
Woodall Southbound (M1)Welcome Break99%8110
Killington Lake (M6)Roadchef99%Joint 9th44
Tebay Northbound (M6)Westmorland99%Joint 9th90

Worst-rated motorway services

ServicesOperatorPer cent satisfiedRankingout of 111Report ref’number
Thurrock* (M25)Moto68%11193
Toddington Southbound* (M1)Moto72%11097
Southwaite Northbound (M6)Moto80%10981
Newport Pagnell South (M1)Welcome Break81%10862
Bridgwater (M5)Moto81%1078

But there is hope for the dreariest motorway services, because Stafford South’s enviable second place this year (with a 99% satisfaction score) comes off the back of a 70% score and second-to-last position in 2017.

Despite the varied rankings, customers were a happy bunch on the whole, with 92% of motorists satisfied with their visit. Friendliness of staff was rated ‘good’ by 94% of people, while 89% of visitors were satisfied with toilet cleanliness.

Less impressive was the 66% of visitors who thought the available food and drink represented value for money, showing that a large proportion of customers still feel overcharged when they stop for a break from driving. And, showing the importance of motorway services to road safety, the number of motorists who said they were in a ‘tired, stressed or frustrated frame of mind’ was reduced from 24% on arrival to just 5% of those heading back out onto the motorway.

Anthony Smith, boss at independent watchdog Transport Focus, commented: “Motorway services play an important role in providing the break motorists need. Drivers tell us they feel less stressed and more awake,” before adding, “Motorway service operators need to focus on ensuring customers see their experience as value for the money they’ve paid”.

Andy is Carbuyer's managing editor, with more than a decade of experience helping consumers find their perfect car. He has an MA in automotive journalism and has tested hundreds of vehicles.

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