With overseas travel restrictions still in place, two thirds of us are planning to stay in the UK this year1, meaning millions will be taking to UK roads over the coming months as we drive to our summer holiday destinations.
Service stations are just as much a part of long journeys as playlists, car games and arguments about directions, so it’s no wonder that research from Transport Focus2 suggests that 45% of us will plan our service station stops before a journey.
It is clear that facilities on offer at service stations are imperative, as stopping for food or drink, taking a driving break and using it as a toilet stop were the top reasons for planning a visit. To put an end to service station despair, we’ve analysed the facilities of 100 locations across the UK, taking the following factors into account:
And it turns out, the UK’s service stations are pretty good; 98% of service stations have showers, while 97% offer electric vehicle charging points. But which has been rated as the best?
Extra’s Cobham services on the M25 is the clear winner, with a score of 86.6/100. With every desired facility, it’s a safe haven for drivers needing a rest – and if you’re travelling in this part of the country, you might well need it. A survey released last year by Transport Focus stated that the M25 was the fifth most hated motorway – perhaps due to its 100 miles of variable speed limits and up to six lanes in places. Located at Junction 9/10, Cobham services scores highly thanks a huge number of parking spaces (4620) and its vast choice of food outlets, including Nandos, Leon and Starbucks for that all important caffeine hit. You can also pick up a few groceries from M&S Simply Food, Shell or Londis. And if you need something to entertain the kids, there’s also a WHSmiths and a Top Gift. For short term entertainment, you’ll also find a play area.
Coming in second, with a score of 83.9/100, is Beaconsfield at junction 42 of the M40. Another Extra service station, it boasts a range of facilities – such as KFC, El Mexicana, Greggs and Pizza Express, an array of shops, and a play area. In fact, Beaconsfield only lost points on the number of parking spaces as it has around a quarter less than top rated Cobham, with 1210 spaces. And just like Cobham, drivers on the M40 might need a spot to take a break; the same survey that found the M25 was the fifth most hated motorway, rated the M40 as the second worst motorway – beaten only by the M11.
The midlands services of Peterborough round off the top three, with a score of 72.6. Located on the A1 (M), it has fewer eateries than our top two, and boasting 400 spaces, has much less room for drivers.
Cambridge services on the A14 and Strensham on the M5 complete the top five, with scores of 69.5 and 69.4 out of a possible 100, respectively.
If you’re heading to Scotland, you’ll want to stop off at Gretna services. Eighth on our list, it has everything on our list, minus the play area. You can choose from one of the six eateries, four shops and even stopover in the 3.5 star rated hotel. If you’re not going quite that far north, Leeds Skelton Lane on the M1 is a safe bet. It may not have an arcade like Gretna, but it does boast a play area to help kids burn off some of that holiday excitement and plenty of shops and food places to grab a quick bite.
Those heading to the south west coast may want to plan their journey around Membury service station in East Devon. Found on the M4, it is costly to park (£15!) but has a variety of facilities that will leave you feeling refreshed and ready to jump back into your car.
If you’re planning on travelling on the M40 then you’re in luck – with an average score of 72.4 points, this motorway ranked the best for available service stations. This was thanks to a solid score from Beaconsfield services, which was second on our list overall. London’s M25 places a respectable fifth, and the motorway that connects London to the north, the M1 came in 13th. Motorists hitting the M23 in Surrey, however, aren’t in for a good stop, with an average score of just 33.9.
The average rank of all service stations was a steady 55.10, yet the Extra services come out on top as the most consistently high service station provider with an average rank of 67.5 across all sites.
(after 2 hours)