Revealed: England's best and worst motorway service areas

A motorway service area described as 'gloriously ugly' has been named the worst in England.


Thurrock services on the M25 scored a customer satisfaction rating of just 68% - the lowest in the country - in a survey by watchdog Transport Focus.

The Essex site, near the Dartford Crossing, has received a number of critical Google and TripAdvisor reviews in recent months.

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One described it as “gloriously ugly”, while other comments claimed the toilets are “disgusting” and advised motorists to “avoid if you have other options”.

Many users complained that there are not enough parking spaces for lorries, with reviewers warning that the car park is a “free for all”, “quickly becoming a nightmare” and “an accident waiting to happen”.

Transport Focus surveyed 9,600 customers for their opinion on subjects such as toilets, staffing and food at 111 service areas in England between February and April.

Four of the five lowest ranked services are operated by Moto.

Toddington southbound on the M1 in Bedfordshire was given the second lowest ranking with a score of 72%, followed by Southwaite northbound on the M6 in Cumbria (80%), Welcome Break-operated Newport Pagnell southbound on the M1 in Buckinghamshire (81%) and Bridgwater on the M5 in Somerset (81%).

A spokeswoman for Moto said its service areas scored an average of 90% but “major redevelopment works” at Thurrock and Toddington southbound “had a negative impact on our customers’ perceptions”.

She added: “There is still much work to do on improving customer satisfaction even more.”

Transport Focus found that the best stopping-off point in England is Norton Canes on the M6 toll in Staffordshire, which earned a score of 100%.

This was ahead of 10 services scoring 99%, including Wetherby on the A1(M) in West Yorkshire, Pease Pottage on the M23 in West Sussex and Woodall southbound on the M1 in South Yorkshire.

Across all service stations, 92% of customers said they were happy with their visit, although just 66% thought the food or drink available was good value for money.

Transport Focus chief executive Anthony Smith said: “As the summer holiday getaway gets into full swing, it’s good to see motorway services customers feel they get a good experience.

“Motorway services play an important role in providing the break motorists need. Drivers tell us they feel less stressed and more awake.

“Operators need to focus on ensuring customers see their experience as value for the money they’ve paid - that there is a good range of food on offer and that buildings are maintained to a high standard.”

An investigation by the Press Association in 2016 found that 10 motorway service areas had food outlets failing to achieve good hygiene standards.

RAC Foundation director Steve Gooding said: “No-one expects motorway service areas to be five-star attractions but they do serve an important safety role for those on long journeys, particularly drivers who need to take a break.

“When a service area gets a reputation for being unattractive, the risk is that people put off the stop they ought to make, and that can have serious consequences if they then run out of fuel or fall asleep.

“What we need is a basic, minimum standard for all our motorway service areas: an easy-to-navigate layout, clean facilities and fairly priced fuel. It’s a simple formula but one that some stop-off places still don’t seem able to get right.”