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Road User Voice – January 2016 – Motorway service area tour

23 December 2015

Motorway service areas are important, as our Road user needs and experiences research found. They have a key safety role, allowing drivers to take a break and avoid tiredness. This is why we are beginning research to understand road users’ needs and experiences of roadside facilities. We will explore whether they are meeting the needs of users including car drivers and their passengers, motorcyclists and lorry drivers.

Tim Moss, chief executive officer of Moto – the biggest motorway service operator in the UK – recently gave us a guided tour of some of the motorway services areas on the M4 and M40. Our first stop was Reading (westbound) on the M4. We met staff in the Greggs bakery and were briefly interrupted by a regular customer who praised its service. Next we sat down with a Costa coffee and heard about Moto’s plans for refurbishment of the site including the toilets, the seating area and the hot food offer.

Transport Focus’s Jordan Sergeant (first on the left) and Anthony Smith (second from the right) talking to Moto’s Tim Moss (second from left) and other staff at Reading (westbound) service area.

Our next stop was Chieveley, located on the junction near Newbury where the M4 meets the A34. We sat down in the new Arlo’s Pantry & Kitchen and tried some of the brunch meals. We were impressed with the cooked to order food and the overall quality of the seating environment. Again, a customer interrupted to praise the staff!

We then headed north up the A34 towards the M40. This dual carriageway felt busy, with lots of HGV traffic. Our roadside facilities research will seek users’ views on the whole range of services on Highways England’s network, from laybys with no facilities, to full standard motorway service areas. The laybys on the A34 seemed to be well used, especially by HGVs, but their short length meant it was quite alarming to think of them pulling out into the fast moving traffic.

The last Moto service we visited was Cherwell Valley, a newer building dating from 2011 after the previous one was destroyed by fire. The site was spacious, with a large Marks & Spencer food shop and a wide range of facilities including a changing places toilet.

We then headed down the M40, narrowly avoiding a HGV pulling off the hard shoulder on the slip road. We talked about our plans for a new road user survey, before calling in at Extra’s Beaconsfield site where Moto runs the Greggs and Marks & Spencer under a landlord/tenant arrangement.

Transport Focus’s Anthony Smith (middle) with staff at the Cherwell Valley service area.

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