Transport Focus: Roadside facilities must be improved

Research carried out by Transport Focus has shown that a number of road users’ are dissatisfied with roadside facilities.

The independent watchdog for transport passengers and road users in the United Kingdom asked a wide variety of road users, including car, lorry and coach drivers, as well as motorcyclists and disabled people, for their views on roadside facilities.

They found that although car drivers are broadly satisfied with services on motorways, many are less happy with services on major ‘A’ roads.

Lorry drivers told Transport Focus that their needs are not being fully met by roadside facilities in England.

They are also struggling to find space to park at the locations and times they need to stop.

Transport Focus discovered that better roadside facilities, with more spaces for HGV vehicles, will make roads safer for all users. They state that this would help to ensure people don’t drive tired, don’t stop unnecessarily on the hard shoulder and don’t run out of fuel.

The new road user research, entitled ‘Take a break – Road users’ views about roadside facilities’ has been published today (26 July).

Guy Dangerfield, Transport Focus’s road user director, said: “This insight into road users’ views should help everyone focus on providing facilities that fully meet the needs of all road users.

“The struggle many lorry drivers face finding somewhere they feel safe and comfortable to stop is a key concern. Highways England, the freight industry, and national and local government should work more closely together to solve this.”

The research found that:

  • People’s needs are largely functional. They want to be able to use the toilet, buy a hot drink, sandwich and fuel. These needs are generally being met at motorway services, but concerns were raised about the cleanliness of toilets and the cost of fuel, food and drink.
  • In contrast to motorways, people aren’t confident that even their most basic needs will be met at services on Highways England’s ‘A’ roads. They talked about the inconsistent quality they found at these services.

Transport Focus will use this research to work with Highways England, government and services operators to address the issues highlighted.

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Of course there will be differences between motorway and A-road services.

A-road services service the local AND the travelling community, so their prices need to be competitive. To keep costs down, means closing times will differ and the range of goods they offer will be biassed towards what the feel they can sell to the local “regulars” as well as the “passing trade”.Also, I travel the A303 a lot and the services on there are fine by and large – not many pubs en route, but that’s no bad thing IMHO – but unless I’m travelling after 9pm I can usually get food and drink and fuel without difficulty.

Motorway services charge through the nose 24/7/365 (at least 10p/litre for fuel!) so have additional funds to support longer opening times and a wider selection of goods. Plus many now have small supermarket-type shops on-site, directly competing with local services just off of the motorway.

So this survey doesn’t really tell us anything new. It would have been more helpful and interesting if they had reported on some possible solutions to the percieved “problems” with A-road services.