A selection of questions that are most commonly asked about Motorway Service Areas!
All day, every day. Even on bank holidays such as Christmas and New Year. By law, Motorway Services areas have to offer food, parking and toilets 24 hours a day, with no closures at all. In practice, the 24-hour food can sometimes be no more than a burger bar which stays open all night, and you might need to cross over to the other side of the motorway to get it (where a service area has twin sites either side of a motorway, linked by a footbridge). But you will always be able to get petrol or diesel and stop for a toilet break, even if the food isn't very appetising at 3.00am!
This is related to the previous question. The operators have to pay all the running costs associated with the service area, including the construction and maintenance of the slip roads onto/off the motorway. And they have to keep the area open all the time, even when there aren't many customers, as well as provide free facilities such as toilets and short-term parking. So they need to make enough money to cover all of these costs, despite the fact that not everyone who uses the facilities will be spending any money. Which means that they need to make their income on product sales, such as food, snacks and stuff from the shop. Effectively, the people who use the paid-for products, such as food, are subsidising those who only ever use the free facilities such as toilets.
Other countries do things differently. Elsewhere, it's more usual for the government (or the local equivalent of the Highways Agency) to provide the basic site, including free facilities such as toilets and parking, and then sublet individual facilities on the site to fuel, retail and food vendors. That way, the paid-for facilities only have to cover their own costs, not those of the site as a whole. That makes them a lot cheaper to use. It also means that there can be more service areas available, including more basic ones that consist solely of a rest area (picnic area) rather than full-facility sites, as a site can exist without needing to generate large amounts of income. If you think this makes more sense, then write to your MP and tell them!
That's Watford Gap, on the M1, which opened on the same day as the motorway itself. Originally, Watford Gap and Newport Pagnell were planned as a pair of sites, one serving cars and the other serving only trucks. But that never actually happened, and both were open to all traffic from the start.
The MSA Trivia website has some photos of Watford Gap, going right back to the earliest days of the site.
At the time of writing, the newest is Gloucester Services Southbound on the M5, operated by Westmorland.
"Biggest" is a bit of a subjective term, since there are different ways of measuring it. The new MSA on the M20 near Folkstone, variously known as Stop 24, Folkestone Services or Westenhanger Services, is the largest in terms of absolute capacity, but that's partly because it also aims to provide facilities for cross-channel travellers to wait until their ferry or shuttle is ready to depart, so it's not just an MSA in that sense (and people using it purely as an MSA may be a little disappointed at the facilities). Beaconsfield on the M40 is, according to the operators, the largest "normal" MSA in terms of capacity.
Some questions about this website:
We don't know if they get read by anyone from the MSA operators in an official capacity. We know that staff at individual MSAs and from the MSA operators do read this site, because we've had emails from them giving us useful update information (and a few attempts to rig the rankings!), but we have no idea how much of what they read here gets passed to those in decision-making positions.
However, this site has also featured in the media, including articles in The Guardian and The Mirror, and we've been contacted by a programme-maker for Channel 4 TV wanting information on MSAs and our users' comments. So the site is certainly getting read by people in positions of influence, which can only be a good thing for your comments.
It's more a case of "or what" at the moment. There's been a problem with the update system losing data and not transferring correctly to the individual site entries. This is being worked on, and hopefully we'll have some genuine updated information on the site soon. In the meantime, please keep on submitting your updates - we really, really need them!
Maybe. There are lots of things we'd like to do, but haven't yet either for lack of time or lack of the necessary information. The three things that get requested the most, that we haven't done yet, are: