Gloucester and Tebay services have been named Britain’s best service stations, while Bridgwater in the south west of England has been ranked the worst, according to a new survey from Which?.
As UK holidaymakers prepare to hit the road this summer, the consumer champion has revealed the country’s best and worst service stations for a pitstop on the way to their destination.
Which? surveyed more than 2,700 members covering around 5,600 experiences at almost 70 motorway service stations across the UK. Members rated them on various criteria, including range of facilities, prices, and ease of social distancing.
Though some respondents dismissed service stations as “all the same”, the survey found stark differences across the country – particularly with regards to cleanliness. The best and worst ranked services were only an hour’s drive apart on the M5, showing the value of planning ahead when it comes to taking a break on a long journey.
The top three service stations all belong to Westmorland. Gloucester (on the M5), Tebay (on the M6 at the edge of the Lake District) and Cairn Lodge (on the M74 in Lanarkshire) ranked first, second and third in the table, respectively.
Gloucester received the top score of 86 per cent, scoring five stars for cleanliness, range and quality of its shops and food outlets, as well as its range of facilities.
One visitor described Gloucester services as “as far from a typical motorway stop as you can imagine”, where customers can enjoy home cooked meals and buy local produce from the “fabulous” farm shop.
Tebay received similar praise, with a score of 83 per cent and plaudits for the freshly prepared food on offer in the restaurant and for sale in the farm shop, while Cairn Lodge was given a score of 69 per cent.
At the other end of the table was Bridgwater on the M5, owned by Moto. The service station received a dismal score of 32 per cent, and was awarded just one star in every category.
Recent visitors described it as “dirty” and “depressing”, and others complained of a urine smell and toilet paper strewn on the floor. Another simply said it “should be demolished”.
Welcome Break was responsible for half of the 10 service stations at the bottom of the table – more than any other brand.
Its service station in Gordano came just ahead of Bridgwater, with a score of 40 per cent, while its services in Newport Pagnell (41%), Keele (42%), London Gateway (45%), and Birchanger Green (45%) also populated the bottom 10.
Even its highest scoring service station, found in Warwick, scored a decidedly average 57 per cent.
Roadchef runs three of the services listed in the bottom 10, including Watford Gap on the M1 (43%) and Sandbach on the M6 (42%), both of which earned a dismal one star for their range of facilities and just two stars for cleanliness.
Often, drivers can have a much better experience by planning ahead to ensure they stop at one of the better service stations on their route. For example, those driving north on the M6 between junctions 36 and 39 have the choice of stopping at Tebay or Killington Lake, scoring 83 per cent and 52 per cent, respectively.
The two stations are just 12 miles apart, with both benefiting from picturesque surroundings – but visitors were much more positive about Tebay than Killington Lake, with customers at the latter complaining of long queues and difficulty in adhering to social distancing.
Meanwhile on the M1, Donington (60%) is far superior to Trowell (46%), as is Cairn Lodge (69%) to Abington (49%) on the M74.
Some domestic travel restrictions in England are set to lift on 12 April at the earliest, when overnight stays at self-contained accommodation will be allowed, with further restrictions expected to ease no earlier than 17 May when hotels and B&Bs will be able to reopen for leisure stays.
Rory Boland, Editor of Which? Travel, said:
“The results of our survey show that it pays to plan ahead to avoid some of the UK’s worst motorway services. It could be the difference between a home-cooked meal in peaceful surroundings, or crowded queues in downright dirty facilities.
“Whether you’re zipping down the M5 towards the beaches on the south-west coast, or up the M6 towards the Scottish border, make sure your journey isn’t spoiled by a stop at a shoddy service station.”
Notes to editors:
- Which? surveyed 2,719 members of its online panel who shared 5,611 experiences at motorway service stations. The survey was conducted between 23 November and 14 December 2020.
- Roadchef chose not to provide a comment on the findings, while Moto did not respond to requests for a comment.
- The information in this press release is for editorial use by journalists and media outlets only. Any business seeking to reproduce information in this release should contact the Which? Endorsement Scheme team at email@example.com.
Using the table: *Also accessible from A1(M), J1. M1, M2 and M3 refer to motorways in England, not Northern Ireland. (N) = Northbound; (S) = Southbound. We asked about survey stations across the UK, but can only rate those that received at least 30 responses.
Star ratings from one to five. Sample sizes shown in brackets. A dash (-) means sample size too small to give a star rating. Range of facilities: Toilets, baby changing, showers etc. Convenience and accessibility: Ease of parking, quality of signposting, disabled access, walking distances, queues, etc. Customer score: Combines overall satisfaction and likelihood of recommending.
Which? is the UK’s consumer champion, here to make life simpler, fairer and safer for everyone. Our research gets to the heart of consumer issues, our advice is impartial, and our rigorous product tests lead to expert recommendations. We’re the independent consumer voice that influences politicians and lawmakers, investigates, holds businesses to account and makes change happen. As an organisation we’re not for profit and all for making consumers more powerful.