Motorway Service Areas Are Not Up To The Mark

A survey of 85 service areas on England’s motorway network, carried out by the Road Safety Markings Association (RSMA), reveals them to be a mess of conflicting signs, worn-away road markings and bewildering road layouts.

Motorway Service Areas

A report issued today shows scores for the external layout of motorway service areas, including two criteria for pedestrians: amenity (are walkways in place); and quality (are they visible, logical, easy to use) – and combined scores out of a possible 60.


Tebay (northbound) on the M6 and Norton Canes on M6 Toll scored 52 points, as each featured clearly marked zebra crossings with a network of major access walkways and in some cases extending these along all available parked rows, minimising pedestrian interaction with vehicle movements.

Twelve of the service areas surveyed (Colsterworth; Leicester (Markfield); London Gateway; Toddington; Fleet; Sedgmoor; Taunton Dean; Charnock Richard; Corley; Chester; Rivington; Burtonwood) in the opinion of the RSMA made inadequate provision for pedestrians and gained a zero score. Common failures in the league table included worn out pedestrian crossings; no dropped kerb for disabled access; walkways littered with refuse bins, trees and advertising hoardings; and a zebra crossing leading walkers into manoeuvring traffic.


Commenting on the findings, RSMA Chief Executive, George Lee, said: “Drivers are encouraged to break their journey and may be stopping while under the pressures of a long period of driving, bored and fractious children or worse still, a child who has just wailed ‘I feel sick…’

“They switch from a relatively orderly road with single-direction traffic and few distractions to a barrage of advertising, direction signs and other drivers in a state of confusion and tension.

“Once they leave the car, the rules of the road are abandoned, and they are left to weave among rows of parked cars and moving traffic to reach the facilities. For many, this makes ‘taking a break’ a stressful event.”

George Lee went on: “While thankfully, injuries and collisions are normally avoided due to overall low speeds, there must be countless ‘near misses’, causing anxiety for pedestrians and drivers alike.

“Tebay and Norton Canes demonstrate what ‘good’ looks like. It’s time those with the poorest scores bring scruffy, neglected and pedestrian-unfriendly car parks up to better standards.”


Commenting on the report, Neil Greig, Director of Policy and Research at Institute of Advanced Motorists said: “Many drivers avoid motorway service areas for fear of being ripped off on fuel and food prices but this survey shows how they also lag behind on basic good layout and maintenance. The government want to see more competition between service areas so those who don’t tidy up their act risk being left behind. Service areas now use well-known brands to entice drivers in, but regular customers of Waitrose, Marks and Spencer’s, Starbucks or McDonalds would not put up with this sort of environment in a high street store and they shouldn’t have to alongside a motorway!”


Kelvin Reynolds, Director of Policy and Public Affairs from the British Parking Association said: “It is essential that motorway service area parking and access roads are well designed and managed so that they work safely and efficiently.  Designated pedestrian routes are paramount and assist in safer places for everyone. Signs and lines should respect the principles of the Traffic Signs Manual since this reduces confusion for motorists driving around motorway services looking for parking spaces, and pedestrian routes ensure that people stay safer. It’s common sense really.”


Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “Around one in seven fatal motorway accidents involve fatigue. That is why drivers are repeatedly and rightly encouraged to take breaks, which means we need service stations to be places people want to stop at rather than try to avoid.

“Simple things like clear road markings, uncluttered signs and clean facilities won’t break the bank but will make visiting rest areas a more attractive experience.”