Motorway Services Online

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This article concerns the facilities section of each services page, an example of which can be found here.

Parts of this are complicated, so the best way to get a good grasp of it is to look at examples by logging in and selecting 'edit'. You will be offered a visual editor or a code (text) editor. If you're technically minded, you may prefer the text editor because that shows you how everything works. If you're just making a quick change and not planning on hanging around, you will prefer the visual editor, and you'll probably find that most of this page won't apply to you!

In either case, use the "show preview" button to get to grips with the changes you're making. Don't worry if you accidentally break something (although please try not to!) as we have safeguards in place that will prevent mistakes from going live.

The Structure

The information should be split into four categories; restaurants, shops, main amenities ("general") and hotels, with a final section for the facilities available at the petrol station. Each facility should then be separated by commas, giving you this:
{{facilities|Restaurant| Burger King, Costa, EDC, Greggs, Costa Express, Krispy Kreme }}
{{facilities|Shops| Phone Tech, M&S Simply Food, WHSmith }}
{{facilities|Amenities| Full Hou$e, Showers, Travelodge }}
{{facilities|Outdoor| Dog Walk, Children's Play Area }}
{{facilities|Charging| Tesla Supercharger, GRIDSERVE Electric Highway, IONITY }}
{{facilities|Forecourt| BP, Shop, Costa Express, LPG }}

For motorway service areas in the UK, all six sections should be given. On A-roads, 'restaurant', 'shops', 'amenities' and 'forecourt' are best left optional.

There is no particular rule for the order which brands should be listed in. Best practice is to organise restaurants by: Major Units, Smaller Units, Cabinets, Drive Thrus. Forecourts should be: Oil Brand, Shop Brands, Pump Types, Car Washes.


One of the first lessons in Wikicode is that you can (and should) create a link by surrounding that item in square brackets. So, [[KFC]] gives you KFC. This should be done if that facility has a page in the Brands section (with that exact name), or if one is likely to be created. If one isn't likely to be created, no link is needed.

However, almost all the brands that are worth linking to also have templates - and templates are better! You load templates using curly brackets, so in this case you'd write {{KFC}} The reason templates are better is that each template sends all the information within it to the search engine.

Don't worry if you glaze over the next few paragraphs - so long as one person knows, we'll always be able to fix any issues! For more seasoned editors, we would stress it's vital the following process is understood - convoluted and outdated it may be, but it's the thinking power behind Services Search, Map:Services Search, and so many other key features.

We can read the list of facilities above and work out exactly what facilities there are. But computers aren't clever enough to work it out (or at least the ones which run this website aren't). They like to follow processes, and this is what they do:

When someone uses Services Search (or another script), a lot happens behind the scenes:

  1. The website gets a list of every page on the website.
  2. The website lists the categories the user has requested. This will be Category:Services, and any more specific ones.
  3. The website then checks all those categories, and removes any pages which aren't in all those categories.
  4. If a particular brand has been requested, the categories won't be helpful enough. Instead, it checks Category:Facility Templates, and looks for every page which invokes the template of the brand being requested. In English this means if you've asked for WHSmith, the website is now actively looking for the line {{WHSmith}}, but of course it doesn't think about it like that - the website thinks it is simply checking two lists to see if they match.
  5. Now it has a list of all the relevant services with the brand requested. But it will check the template (curly brackets) to see if any more information has been provided which the user may want to know. We'll explain how this part can be used further on.

Ultimately, {{WHSmith}} will only work if the script at "Template:WHSmith" exists - in this case it does, but if your brand doesn't, you can still go ahead and wait for someone else to create it for you, or you can create it yourself by copying the code from an existing template.

Once a template is created, it should be used every time it's needed- otherwise we'll end up with a search engine which only delivers half the results. If a brand doesn't have many branches and therefore doesn't need to appear in the search engine, creating a template would do no harm, but it would also have no benefit.

Single-side Facilities

When templates (curly brackets) are being used, it's important that the system knows if a facility is on one side of the road only. To us, a single-side facility is one where you have to go outside in order to access it from the other side of the road. Facilities which are all under one roof are regarded as all on the same side, as it's a walk many will be willing to make. Yes that's not always the case, but the line has to be drawn somewhere to keep things simple.

{{Burger King|W}} will add a tag to say Burger King is on the westbound side of the road only. More importantly, it will update the map at the time time.

With too many of these tags it becomes messy, but when you're using templates it's still important that they're used. To address this, we have a silencer. {{Burger King|W|s}} will tell the map and search results that the facility is westbound only, but will not do anything to your page. On the page, you can then use this to say that Burger King and Costa are only on the westbound side:

{{facilities|Restaurant| FACILITIES ON BOTH SIDES GO HERE |W= {{Burger King|W|s}}, {{Costa|W|s}} }}

In the script above, we have a section for facilities on both sides, and a section reserved for westbound facilities only. Note that the |W and the |s parts are still very important - one to explain to the system that it's westbound only, and one to stop it writing that on this page. This will create: "westbound only: Burger King, Costa".

Technically, it doesn't matter whether you put facilities on both sides in the central section, or whether you list them twice on a |W= and a |E= part of the script. The second option explained should be used only where there is one service station with two very different buildings. For anything, it looks messy, and is easy to get wrong.

This is all a bit complicated, so it's helpful to remember why we're doing it. {{Burger King|W}} tells the search engine that Burger King is on the westbound side only, and that's important information which the system has to know, no matter how you decorate the page.

When you're not using a template (using square brackets or no link instead), no information is sent to the search engine, so the detail doesn't matter. Even so, you'll want to make sure that the whole page uses a similar style.

Writing all facilities twice under separate headings is another option, but this should be used sparingly. Some people don't read it properly, and the duplicated 'outdoor space' and 'charging point' fields will not be rendered correctly. Silencers are still needed because the search engine won't know which heading each template falls under. If the two sides of a service area are that different, it's probably worth creating a whole new page.

Don't get carried away!

You are allowed to use each template more than once on a page, but only if you are sending no other data with it. An example of where this is OK is if you had a northbound section which talked about a {{Burger King}}, and then a southbound section that talked about a {{Burger King}}. That's fine.

A situation that has caught us out before was where we had a {{Greggs|N}} outside the northbound building, and a {{Greggs|S}} outside the southbound forecourt. While that made sense on the page, the problem was that the search engine reads it without context, and gets confused at how it can be both northbound only and southbound only.

In this situation, if you wanted to say that the Greggs is northbound only, you would write it out manually, like this: {{Greggs}} ''(northbound only)''
That will look exactly the same on the page, but the northbound only part won't be sent to the search engine, which is perfect.

A similar situation occurs if you wanted to stress that both Greggs were open in the mornings only. In the example above, {{Greggs|warning=mornings only}} would be sent to the search engine twice, so if you need to do it, do it normally the first time and then write it out manually the second time.

Be aware that the same problem arises any time you have a spin-off brand and the main brand on the same page. Examples of this could be a drive thru and the main brand, a Waitrose and a Little Waitrose, or a SPAR and a SPAR Express. They could be on different sides of the road, or one could be at the forecourt. When this happens, think about what the search engine will be reading, and try to make it as sensible as you can!

Single-side Hotels

In the case of hotels, it should only be marked as being only one side of the road if there is no provision for drivers on the other side. At some hotels, drivers on the other side will be asked to pull over and use the authorised access only bridge. This is fine, but if it asks drivers on the other side to turn around at the next junction (or to walk across a pedestrian footbridge) it should be marked as being on one side of the road only as anyone could give that advice.

Wet Weather Rule

For most facilities, we decide whether it is "westbound only" or accessible to both sides by saying whether the route across the motorway is completely covered, or not. This is the fairest way of quickly ruling whether the walk is quick and convenient or not.

There are some exceptions: Changing Places and Children's Play Areas should always be marked as "westbound only" if a bridge is involved, because both facilities rely on being close to the car park.

Spin-off brands

As a matter of pedantic pride (and a rare bit of motorway fun), we try to be specific about exactly what each brand is. This means "SPAR Express" is different to "SPAR", "Little Waitrose" is different to "Little Waitrose" and "Krispy Kreme Airstream" is different to "Krispy Kreme".

The easiest way to deal with that is to create a whole new template for SPAR Express which merely calls the original SPAR. The original SPAR will then have a parameter which checks whether it needs to write its name as "Express" or not. Doing it this way means a search for "SPAR" will still show results for "SPAR Express", but if anybody desperately wanted to find a "SPAR Express" they would not be given results from "SPAR".

Most editors can ignore all this - it's not something to worry about. The only time it really matters is when dealing with drive thrus.


We no longer provide any unique hotel booking links. As you were!

Hotel brands are now shown under "Amenities", rather than having their own section. The hotel brand and "Changing Places" are arguably the two most important Amenities, and should be prioritised.

Charging Points and Outdoors

The two newest facility sections are Charging Points and Outdoors. These rely on free text. Yikes!

For Charging Points, the general precedent is that we list each charging brand, followed by the maximum power output and then the type of plug. Semicolon, then move onto the next brand.

For Outdoor Facilities, this involves a description of what's available. Semicolon, then list anything else (play area, etc). If the whole site is concrete with nothing nice outdoors, we should say so (using facts rather than opinions). If we are worried about upsetting the owners (mostly the independents who make do with what they are given), we can take the sting out with a phrase like "busy forecourt", before saying nothing is available.

We use Outdoor Facilities to say what is available, not if it's any good or not. We should be careful of making something sound too good if it isn't, but equally if your complaint is that the place is full of litter, then that should only be expressed using the star ratings and/or reviews section. Also, it is not our place to tell people how to behave, but we should be wary of encouraging people to walk somewhere dangerous (or leave a site with strict parking regulations). Under no circumstances should we direct people onto motorway land, or somewhere where you must stand on the road to get there.

Other Complications

It's important all the facility lists are written in the same format as they are surely the most important feature in our "guide". Sometimes, this means arbitrary and frankly odd rules are required to make decisions.

To us, a landscaped area with several tables on it designed to be a fairly pleasant place to eat outdoors is a Picnic Area. Anything else is recorded as Picnic Tables.

Also, cash machines are only recorded if they are free to use, and as the times have changed telephones and wifi are no longer worth mentioning. Showers are still worth mentioning as many places don't have them.

In line with MSO:Criteria, facilities should be removed if they are going to close for more than 7 days. New facilities must not be added too early.

Large Petrol Stations

Most services have at least two buildings: an amenity building selling food and a forecourt building selling fuel. For this, we list everything in the amenity building over amenities, food and shops. Everything in the forecourt building gets listed in the 'forecourt' section only.

An increasing number of small services have just one building, which sells fuel and food. To cram everything under the 'forecourt' heading would look silly, so some common sense is required.

In these cases, if the forecourt building has two sets of doors - one leading to a car park and the other to the pumps - then amenities, food, shops and fuel should all be listed separately. There is no need to duplicate items. However, if it's not possible to walk in to the services without walking through the petrol station, it might be worth listing everything under 'fuel'.

What Counts?

It's becoming increasingly common for service areas to act as a gateway to a larger retail or business park development. It would be unmanageable and unhelpful to try to list every facility in the retail park, which could include shops, industrial facilities and hotels. Instead, we should only list the facilities which are clearly attached to the main service area, and are clearly related to roadside use.

There is also a new trend of partnerships, or "brands within brands". A simple example is that products from M&S Simply Food are now sold at Costa, but this does not mean that we list M&S every time we list Costa. We simply say that there is a Costa and we expect the reader to work out whether that will have what they want. Otherwise we might as well write out the whole menu! However there are examples which are more complicated, such as shops that have lots of different drinks machines inside them. This needs to be given more thought.

Changing Colours

The structure given at the top of the page will, by default, show up in blue. You can change the colour by adding one more variable (variable 3) to the end of the code. See the structure again:

{{facilities|Restaurant| Burger King, Costa, EDC, Greggs, Costa Express, Krispy Kreme |primary }}
{{facilities|Shops| Phone Tech, M&S Simply Food, WHSmith |primary }}
{{facilities|Amenities| Full Hou$e, Showers, Travelodge |primary }}
{{facilities|Outdoor| Dog Walk, Children's Play Area |primary }}
{{facilities|Charging| Tesla Supercharger, GRIDSERVE Electric Highway, IONITY |primary }}
{{facilities|Forecourt| BP, Shop, Costa Express, LPG |primary }}

That extra little bit on the end of each one tells us that it is a service area on a primary route, so it colours it green. You can colour the roads as follows:

  • if nothing is provided, it will assume this is a motorway and go blue. This is for official motorway service areas and rest areas, signposted in blue from the motorway, only.
  • if "primary" is provided, it will go green - this is for A-roads which have mostly green signs (remember that all "Services" signs are now white, so don't rely on that).
  • if "nonprimary" is provided, it will go black - this is for local A-roads, B-roads, facilities not on a major road, and facilities that are near a major road but not signposted from it.
  • if "truckstop" is provided, it will go a different sort-of black - this is for official truckstops that have, or should have, black road signs.
  • if "closed" is provided, it will go another sort-of black - this is for places that we consider closed.

Note that if you are using "closed", there is no symbol for Charging Points or Outdoor Facilities - just put them with the rest of the Amenities, as closed ones are no longer worth highlighting.

Consider the case of Kincardine Bridge services, which is next to an interchange involving the motorway (the M876) and a primary route (the A876). As both of these fly past without full signage, it is considered to be a service area for the road it is actually on - which is the tiny A905 - so it goes in black.