Motorway services

py_megapixel

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Just realised that until I stopped at a motorway service station the other day it had been years since I'd done so, with most long journeys since then being made by train. However I'm still not comfortable spending several hours on a train, especially in a facemask, under current circumstances, so I've been travelling by car more.

Anyway the one I stopped at was operated by Moto, and they've put in a few S.D. precautions. It had two levels with toilets on both but the lower level toilets were closed (despite this they kept the silly casino/betting-shop area opposite them open with only very basic distancing measures!) for reasons unbeknownst. Also sanitiser stations on the entrance and taking name/phone number for NHS tracing if you visit any of the eating establishments, and a one way system

I noticed they've replaced the toilets with ones made by a company called "PropelAir" which seem to be vacuum toilets with a sealing lid (??) and were proudly claiming that they flush much faster and are more hygenic.

My visit was just a quick in-and-out for a toilet stop but I'm interested to hear what others experiences at motorway services have been.
 
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matt

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I called in a Killington Lake services on the M6 the other day. There was one way system in place with the toilets open as usual. Macdonalds was open for takeaways only. It was probably the quietest services I have ever been in.
 

Crossover

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I've called in at Hartshead Moor, Birch and Ferrybridge since June.

The former is Welcome Break and they had a bit of a one-way system in the entrance. The visit there was just before restaurants etc opened and as I recall, not too much was open.

The other two are Moto and had a one way system in the entrance and sanitiser stations dotted about (though the sanitiser smells awful!) - at Ferrybridge there was a lady sat in the entrance wearing a visor, although I'm not sure exactly what she was doing - I suspect counting entrance/exits. I think the gambling areas were closed.

All visits were before face coverings became compulsary in shops
 

Domh245

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I've made a few stops at Newport Pagnell, both North and Southbound. Catering had been 'rationalised' so that there was a KFC on one side, and Burger King on the other (checking the website suggests this has now changed, with both KFCs now open, but only the NB Burger King) with people able to use the bridge to cross between them. Other than that, sounds much the same - sanitiser at the entry, one way systems in place, etc. The one way system however was particularly poorly marked out - hazard tape placed in a hatched fashion on the floor, took me until my second visit to realise what it was for!
 

Fawkes Cat

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I noticed they've replaced the toilets with ones made by a company called "PropelAir" which seem to be vacuum toilets with a sealing lid (??) and were proudly claiming that they flush much faster and are more hygenic.
These have been in for two or three years now - I assume more for water economy than for added hygiene.
 

Bletchleyite

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These have been in for two or three years now - I assume more for water economy than for added hygiene.
I believe so. They're not actually vacuum toilets, rather they use positive air pressure to assist the flush (which is why they can't, unlike vacuum toilets, be flushed with the lid up).

From a quick Google they appear to cost £1200 a pop so they must save a lot of water to be viable over a standard pan which costs about £100.

On the general point I'm quite liking the one way arrangements and reduced number of concessions - it means you can get in and out much quicker with far fewer dawdlers and people walking all over the place.
 

py_megapixel

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From a quick Google they appear to cost £1200 a pop so they must save a lot of water to be viable over a standard pan which costs about £100.
It wouldn't surprise me if motorway services can negotiate cheaper pricing than that, especially if they're a chain as big as Moto and plan to deploy them across all of their service stations. But, even factoring in that, the cost of the cistern, which normal WC pans tend not to be sold with, and the fact that commercial bathroom fixtures likely don't have publicly accessible prices and could well be more expensive than domestic ones, it's going to be more expensive than a typical toilet.

However since motorway service toilets have something of a poor reputation, and I'd wager an awful lot of their passing trade comes from people just popping in to use the toilet, making the public perceive them to be more hygenic might well be worth whatever portion of the cost isn't being offset by water savings.

As for whether they ARE actually more hygenic, I have no idea. I assumed so because it looked like they'd installed them because of Covid!

One thing I do know, though, is that they make a truly awful noise (albeit only for a couple of seconds)
 

Bletchleyite

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As for whether they ARE actually more hygenic, I have no idea. I assumed so because it looked like they'd installed them because of Covid!
It is certainly more hygienic to have a toilet you can't flush with the lid up, flushing with the lid up creates lots of aerosols containing unpleasant things. But that isn't why, they've been rolling them out for a while and it's because of the savings on water costs.
 

py_megapixel

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It is certainly more hygienic to have a toilet you can't flush with the lid up, flushing with the lid up creates lots of aerosols containing unpleasant things. But that isn't why, they've been rolling them out for a while and it's because of the savings on water costs.
That seems fair enough. The company claims that in the heaviest use applications it can pay for itself in water savings within a year, and I can't think of many heavier use applications than motorway services!
 

adc82140

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In response to the OP, I find motorway services hideous places at the best of times. Overpriced foul food, overpriced fuel, vile toilets.

This used to be the case in France as well, but they've upped their game considerably in recent years. We need to do the same.
 

Bletchleyite

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In response to the OP, I find motorway services hideous places at the best of times. Overpriced foul food, overpriced fuel, vile toilets.

This used to be the case in France as well, but they've upped their game considerably in recent years. We need to do the same.
I don't find them as bad as they used to be. In particular, Norton Canes on the M6 Toll is quite pleasant, a bit like a small modern airport without the planes.
 

Fawkes Cat

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In response to the OP, I find motorway services hideous places at the best of times. Overpriced foul food, overpriced fuel, vile toilets.
The 'overpriced' element is the business model: for the traditional service area which you can only access from the motorway, then pretty well by definition there's no alternative trader you can go to, so high prices can be charged for distress purchases.

For the 'foul/vile' element, in my experience the food from an MSA McDonald's is no different from what you get at a High Street branch. Similarly, can we say that MSA toilets are worse than those at railway stations?

The standards might not be what you want, but that's less to do with the sites being on motorways and more to do with them being of Britain's usual standard.
 

py_megapixel

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In response to the OP, I find motorway services hideous places at the best of times. Overpriced foul food, overpriced fuel, vile toilets.

This used to be the case in France as well, but they've upped their game considerably in recent years. We need to do the same.
A few particularly vile ones - the two at Rivington spring to mind - have actually been rebuilt in a similar style to modern ones on the continent. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come.
 

Bletchleyite

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A few particularly vile ones - the two at Rivington spring to mind - have actually been rebuilt in a similar style to modern ones on the continent. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come.
One of the brands is also experimenting with selling fuel at a more reasonable price. As a result I filled up at one (rather than putting a tenner's worth in and finding an Asda via satnav) on Saturday. Indeed, I think that's why - the captive market is no longer captive, because satnav means you can easily find a large supermarket which basically offers the same sort of thing and typically has other eateries around it too.
 

py_megapixel

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One of the brands is also experimenting with selling fuel at a more reasonable price.
Moto were doing that and making quite a big deal of it. It even has its own Twitter hashtag!

As a result I filled up at one (rather than putting a tenner's worth in and finding an Asda via satnav) on Saturday. Indeed, I think that's why - the captive market is no longer captive, because satnav means you can easily find a large supermarket which basically offers the same sort of thing and typically has other eateries around it too.
That's something I was going to mention, yes. Of course, service stations have the convenience benefit that they are right next to the motorway (in fact there's usually one for each carriageway!) so no need to drive too far to find one.

But if you plan your journey in advance then you can almost always find a supermarket with a café and toilets, which is functionally equivalent to a service station unless you particularly need access to those awful fruit machines or a specific brand of restaurant. It also had the bonus that if you're staying in self catering accommodation you can pick up some food to save yourself a trip later.

Some family members live in Scotland and when we drive up to see them we usually end up stopping at one of the numerous Morrisons along the route - less run down than a service station, and doesn't feel as much like it's constantly trying to extract money from you. Usually the toilets are cleaner and the cafe much nicer than some of the canteen type affairs at service stations. Probably cheaper too.
 

trebor79

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I noticed they've replaced the toilets with ones made by a company called "PropelAir" which seem to be vacuum toilets with a sealing lid (??) and were proudly claiming that they flush much faster and are more hygenic.
It is certainly more hygienic to have a toilet you can't flush with the lid up, flushing with the lid up creates lots of aerosols containing unpleasant things. But that isn't why, they've been rolling them out for a while and it's because of the savings on water costs.
They are disgusting contraptions. They don't seal perfectly and you can hear air (and therefore aerosols) "burping" out from around the rubber gaiter on the lid when they flush. If they worked on a vacuum principle like a train toilet they'd be far better.
I've noticed that toilets utilising these things tend to have a "faecal" smell about them that is not present in toilets with normal flush mechanisms. Many places use a water flush that doesn't make a lot of splashing in any case.
 

paul1609

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One of the brands is also experimenting with selling fuel at a more reasonable price. As a result I filled up at one (rather than putting a tenner's worth in and finding an Asda via satnav) on Saturday. Indeed, I think that's why - the captive market is no longer captive, because satnav means you can easily find a large supermarket which basically offers the same sort of thing and typically has other eateries around it too.
My 3 litre Toyota pick up if fuelled up at my local garage on Romney Marsh will be half way up Loch Lomond before the little yellow light comes on, why on earth would anybody buy fuel on the motorway in 2020?
 

py_megapixel

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My 3 litre Toyota pick up if fuelled up at my local garage on Romney Marsh will be half way up Loch Lomond before the little yellow light comes on, why on earth would anybody buy fuel on the motorway in 2020?
For most people a vehicle that size is extremely excessive.

However, not everyone starts out with a full tank of fuel. It might be more convenient to turn off the motorway partway through your journey than to drive to your local garage beforehand if it's not already on your route - but nobody does that the moment because it's so overpriced.
 

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My 3 litre Toyota pick up if fuelled up at my local garage on Romney Marsh will be half way up Loch Lomond before the little yellow light comes on, why on earth would anybody buy fuel on the motorway in 2020?
Some people aren't as organised and forget to fuel up before their journey, basically.

But if they price it reasonably, then there's no reason not to get it there, and if you're going to need to stop for a wee anyway... :) (You don't need to do a double stop, most of them have toilets in the garage bit as well as the main services bit, and usually a Costabucks machine these days too)
 

Richard Scott

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In response to the OP, I find motorway services hideous places at the best of times. Overpriced foul food, overpriced fuel, vile toilets.

This used to be the case in France as well, but they've upped their game considerably in recent years. We need to do the same.
Agree plenty with overpriced food but some aren't too bad, if happy with well known take away chains that are only a little more than high street prices. Always found toilets fine. Having travelled around continent to be honest ours are much better. Continental ones often very small, poor selection and you often pay for toilets that are usually ok but no better than ours. One thing that is the same is over the top fuel prices. Never fill up there!!!
 

py_megapixel

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I don't know if anyone else has noticed the prevelance of "chewable toothbrush" machines in service stations, never used one but it's always seemed like something appearing too good to be true
 

DavidGrain

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Many many many years ago I worked for an oil company. In those days and I doubt there has been much change, the government collected a percentage commission or royalty which was the same percentage across all retail outlets. In the case of the fuel sales this percentage was more than the retailers profit on the fuel which was the real reason that fuel prices on the motorway were so high.
 

DelW

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I'm surprised no one has mentioned Tebay on the M6 - when I travelled regularly between the Midlands and central Scotland it was my preferred lunch stop. It's not owned by one of the chains, but by a local company connected to nearby farmers. Prices are higher but food quality is much better, and they have a good farm shop on each side as well.
 

py_megapixel

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I'm surprised no one has mentioned Tebay on the M6 - when I travelled regularly between the Midlands and central Scotland it was my preferred lunch stop. It's not owned by one of the chains, but by a local company connected to nearby farmers. Prices are higher but food quality is much better, and they have a good farm shop on each side as well.
Ah yes, I'd forgotten about that. Closest you can get to "artisan" services!
 

Bletchleyite

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Ah yes, I'd forgotten about that. Closest you can get to "artisan" services!
But rubbish in terms of actually being a motorway services. For instance, I wanted a packet of paracetamols due to having a splitting headache. They were only on sale in the garage, not in the main building.

I don't mind it in terms of being a tourist visitor centre like Rheged (which they also own) but motorway services need to provide the motorway services basics, and theirs don't. I vastly prefer the standard Costabucks, WHS and M&S/Waitrose offering, to be honest. You can do that in a nice building - see Norton Canes.
 

Bletchleyite

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Confession time - I've still not been to the much-lauded Gloucester services :lol:
I was personally unimpressed - see above! A great farm shop and faux-Booths and an average[1] cafe, but that's not what I want in motorway services.

[1] You don't get to use the word "artisan" when you serve McCain Home Fries (or similar mashed-potato-in-batter garbage) as chips. Slice potatoes and deep fry. It is impossible to improve upon this as a method of making chips.
 

DelW

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But rubbish in terms of actually being a motorway services. For instance, I wanted a packet of paracetamols due to having a splitting headache. They were only on sale in the garage, not in the main building.

I don't mind it in terms of being a tourist visitor centre like Rheged (which they also own) but motorway services need to provide the motorway services basics, and theirs don't. I vastly prefer the standard Costabucks, WHS and M&S/Waitrose offering, to be honest. You can do that in a nice building - see Norton Canes.
I used to see plenty of people using the place for meals, drinks, and toilets, which are what most people want from a service area. I don't see that having to buy your tablets from one sales area rather than another warrants the description of "rubbish", which it certainly isn't (IMO).
 

py_megapixel

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But rubbish in terms of actually being a motorway services. For instance, I wanted a packet of paracetamols due to having a splitting headache. They were only on sale in the garage, not in the main building.

I don't mind it in terms of being a tourist visitor centre like Rheged (which they also own) but motorway services need to provide the motorway services basics, and theirs don't. I vastly prefer the standard Costabucks, WHS and M&S/Waitrose offering, to be honest. You can do that in a nice building - see Norton Canes.
Exactly. If I'm "on the road" so to speak I don't generally want to sit down and have a posh artisan type meal. Usually it's a pop in for a loo break and possibly some basic food to eat quickly.

That said the atmosphere of Tebay and its cousins is far preferable to the typical model which feels like it's always trying to sell you something (or take your money for nothing, in the case of the gambling areas).

One chain I wish we saw more often at motorway services is Subway, as a quick but decent quality sandwich is usually exactly what I want on a long journey. As an aside I absolutely hate most pre packed sandwiches.

Also I think charging a small amount for either parking or toilets would be a good idea to contribute to the upkeep, but as soon as one chain introduces such a policy they're likely to immediately lose much of their business because people will just drive on to the next one rather than pay.

Also I heard motorway service stations aren't legally permitted to operate without providing free toilets, though that might be a myth
 

trebor79

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Always amuses me to see the signs asking you to pay for parking if staying longer than 2 hours. As anybody wants to spend a minute longer than necessary in one of those hellholes.
 

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