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Motorway services: helping road users travel with confidence

Travel restrictions have been lifted just in time for summer and many are looking to make the most of this and take a well-deserved break away from home.

For those considering travelling abroad, the risk of imposed quarantine could make a UK staycation a more attractive option. We’ve already seen thousands of sun-seekers descend on our beaches during recent hot weather.

As more people head off on longer trips in their cars, they’ll want to know where they can grab a bite to eat or nip to the toilet. Our previous research highlighted concerns over stopping at services, so visitors will want reassurance about what to expect from their visit.

Transport Focus has been working with motorway service operators to ensure their websites are clear on the points we know are important to road users. Operators have worked hard putting measures in place to make visitors feel safe, but it’s important that these are communicated. In our final assessment all operators received a full set of green ticks.

Easy to find website information

Visitors often recall where a service station is but not necessarily who operates it. So, whilst it’s important to communicate changes on the main operator web page, this information also needs to be clear on the individual site pages like Extra has done below for the Beaconsfield services on the M40.

How busy a site is

With more people travelling to UK hotspots, some service areas may get particularly busy with large queues. We discussed with operators how they might alert customers to this, as we know from our panel that visitors would like to know if there are queues so they can plan ahead. As one responder said about the availability of information on toilet, fuel and eating place problems at services:

Am I looking too far forward into the future at the moment, but when I am driving down the M1 it would be great to know a service station ahead has no queues or other problems.”

Roadchef provides live tracking of how busy each of its sites are. For example, you can find out how busy the UK’s oldest services is at Watford Gap.

Face coverings

Face coverings are mandatory (with exemptions) in shops and transport hubs, which includes motorway service areas. It is important this is made clear on websites so that visitors know what to take with them. The image below is a good example from Welcome Break. Moto is also offering free disposable masks for those who aren’t so prepared.

What to expect/how things have changed

Social distancing measures have resulted in a number of changes being made at services. Some operators have recorded videos to show passengers what to expect. One great example of this is Moto’s video below.


Accessibility of websites

We have also seen operators make improvements to the accessibility of their websites specifically for those with visual impairments. On several web pages there was text contained within an image, which won’t get picked up by screen readers. Westmorland made amendments to some of its web pages by adding a text description to accompany the image. It was great to see some improvements in this area and perhaps the sector should review the accessibility of their websites as a whole.

This work with motorway services is part of a wider initiative Transport Focus and London TravelWatch are working on to ensure people travelling by road, train and bus – possibly for the first time since lockdown – have the information they need. Read our earlier blogs about train, bus and transport authority websites.

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