Motorway Services Online

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Best and Worst Motorway Services

Michaelwood rated three stars by Visit England

Since 2007 Motorway Services Online has allowed anyone to rate each operator, and to rate each service area based on a number of qualities. A selection of the data can be found below with the best or worst services in each respect listed alongside their current rating. This can be compared with data from previous years using the selection boxes on the right.

To contribute to the ratings, find a service area and tap it, then look at the box to the right of the page.
A complete list of the current standings can be found at MSO:All Ratings.

How do the ratings work?

We are not the only organisation to rate services. A number of official and unofficial bodies have joined the bandwagon, with many of them using a narrow sample size before declaring they've found the country's best service area in the hope of scoring some free publicity for themselves. It usually works.

The biggest and most reliable national survey at the moment comes from Transport Focus. Some other historical surveys can be worth a read too.

Ours is a little different. Firstly, we're the most thorough. If you open up the service area page, you'll see we break down the ratings in to three categories, covering how quick it is to get in and out, how well-run it is and how much there is to do. We record these scores separately to make sure there's no doubt about where the issues are, and when you're searching for services, we let you choose for yourself which factors you're concerned about.

More importantly, we used a weighted total. This takes note of what the official bodies are saying, and scales them down because they never say anything horrific. It then takes a note of what our readers are saying, and looks for the trend (a surge of bad scores will carry more influence than an older, good score, as it is predicting what the next visitor will think). Those ratings are scaled up on the assumption that many people only rate things when they're angry.

Having said this, any service station can have good days and bad days. Over the years, we have noticed the scores have become more unpredictable, which is good because it means the names who used to always be at the bottom have got better. That's why we now use the weighted ratings. Even so, like you'd expect from any advice website, this is only an interesting tool and should be used as such.


Best Services

Current results:

  1. Portlaoise: 4.67 (1 recent votes)
  2. Cairn Lodge: 4.51 (22 recent votes)
  3. Beaconsfield: 4.50 (22 recent votes)
  4. Gretna: 4.38 (7 recent votes)
  5. Tebay: 4.35 (26 recent votes)
  6. Doncaster (North): 4.34 (13 recent votes)
  7. Donington: 4.32 (19 recent votes)
  8. Gloucester: 4.26 (57 recent votes)
  9. Blackburn with Darwen: 4.25 (6 recent votes)
  10. Durham: 4.23 (12 recent votes)

Newer services tend to do better here, although you can spot surges where large refurbishments have taken place. At the time of writing, the top spots are held by Moto and Welcome Break.

Gloucester might only be fourth, but this is an achievement considering the large number of votes. Cairn Lodge shows a second entry from Westmorland.

This list considers the public vote only, not professional reviews, meaning it isn't weighted like the scores on the main page.

Worst Services

Current results (major services only):

  1. Bridgwater: 2.04 (33 recent votes)
  2. Blyth: 2.33 (26 recent votes)
  3. Heart of Scotland: 2.45 (7 recent votes)
  4. Telford: 2.58 (9 recent votes)
  5. Toddington: 2.61 (50 recent votes)
  6. Abington: 2.64 (8 recent votes)
  7. Winchester: 2.73 (17 recent votes)
  8. Folkestone: 2.81 (18 recent votes)
  9. Rownhams: 2.88 (14 recent votes)
  10. Cherwell Valley: 2.91 (27 recent votes)

Current results (all services on site):

  1. Old Inns: 1.50 (2 recent votes)
  2. Boreham: 1.67 (5 recent votes)
  3. Ilminster: 1.67 (7 recent votes)
  4. Bridgwater: 2.04 (33 recent votes)
  5. Sutton Scotney: 2.06 (9 recent votes)
  6. Countess: 2.07 (26 recent votes)
  7. Podimore: 2.23 (12 recent votes)
  8. Whiddon Down: 2.25 (5 recent votes)
  9. Warminster: 2.25 (16 recent votes)
  10. Beacon Hill: 2.29 (10 recent votes)

We included the extra column here as many A-road services tend to make this list, their scores limited by a lack of facilities and often a lack of investment. Old Inns seems to be making a regular appearance at the moment.

The 2007 results appear to be very even - a sure sign of how much smaller the site was then.

Most Votes

Current results:

  1. Gloucester: 4.26 (57 recent votes)
  2. Toddington: 2.61 (50 recent votes)
  3. Leigh Delamere: 3.69 (35 recent votes)
  4. Gordano: 3.05 (34 recent votes)
  5. Cobham: 4.04 (34 recent votes)
  6. Bridgwater: 2.04 (33 recent votes)
  7. Lancaster: 3.19 (32 recent votes)
  8. Southwaite: 3.63 (32 recent votes)
  9. Fleet: 3.56 (30 recent votes)
  10. Wetherby: 3.93 (28 recent votes)

Just for your interest this one - it doesn't really have a lot of meaning. The services with the most votes are the ones which people were talking about, and some 'celebrity services' manage to make the list every year. You can also spot the Cherwell Valley fire, Rivington reconstruction and opening of Beaconsfield and other services by how they manage to shoot up the list.

The Operators

Current results:

  1. Circle K: 4.00 (1 recent votes)
  2. Westmorland: 3.83 (17 recent votes)
  3. Extra: 3.71 (7 recent votes)
  4. Welcome Break: 2.92 (24 recent votes)
  5. Roadchef: 2.68 (18 recent votes)
  6. EG Group (Euro Garages): 2.61 (18 recent votes)
  7. Applegreen: 2.09 (10 recent votes)
  8. Moto: 1.85 (20 recent votes)
  1. Extra: 4.69
  2. Welcome Break: 3.76
  3. First: 3.75
  4. Moto: 3.33
  5. Euro Garages: 2.50
  6. Roadchef: 2.31

At first this looks quite turbulent, but actually there is very little between any of the operators. Usually able to avoid scandals and headlines, Extra tend to score well here. Euro Garage's success seemed to be dependent on which dilapidated service area they've taken on, but it has now settled down.

In 2017, new operator Applegreen sailed to the top, as you might expect of a firm with only new sites.

Ireland (Republic Of.)

Current results:

  1. Barack Obama Plaza: 4.90 (4 recent votes)
  2. Galway Plaza: 4.50 (8 recent votes)
  3. Paulstown: 4.33 (10 recent votes)
  4. Kilcullen: 4.17 (3 recent votes)
  5. Castlebellingham: 3.90 (5 recent votes)
  6. Lusk: 3.70 (11 recent votes)
  7. Wicklow: 3.64 (5 recent votes)
  8. Gorey: 3.63 (13 recent votes)
  9. Carlow: 3.56 (5 recent votes)
  10. Athlone: 3.48 (10 recent votes)
  11. Birdhill: 3.38 (11 recent votes)
  12. Mayfield: 3.25 (8 recent votes)
  13. Manor Stone: 2.86 (9 recent votes)
  14. Enfield: 2.74 (13 recent votes)
  15. Cashel: 2.69 (9 recent votes)
  1. Lusk: 5.00 (new entry)
  2. Galway Plaza: 5.00
  3. Barack Obama Plaza: 5.00
  4. Mayfield: 4.75 (new entry)
  5. Castlebellingham: 4.33
  6. Carlow: 4.00 (new entry)
  7. Wicklow: 3.71 (new entry)
  8. Cashel: 3.71 (new entry)
  9. Birdhill: 3.43 (new entry)
  10. Enfield: 3.17
  11. Manor Stone: 3.00 (new entry)
  12. Paulstown: 2.86 (new entry)

Ireland's relatively small network of motorway services can make them difficult to spot on the lists above. So here is their own list, showing the best. We only started listing them in 2015, and more votes will come with time.