Motorway Services Online

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Best and Worst Motorway Services

Three star motorway service area.

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 Motorway Services

  1. Lisburn [Northern Ireland]: 5.00 (4 recent votes)
  2. Burtonwood: 4.87 (5 recent votes)
  3. Leeds Skelton Lake: 4.68 (15 recent votes)
  4. Stafford (southbound): 4.61 (14 recent votes)
  5. Maidstone: 4.59 (12 recent votes)
  6. Stafford (northbound): 4.48 (44 recent votes)
  7. Baldock: 4.44 (3 recent votes)
  8. Winchester: 4.38 (11 recent votes)
  9. Exeter: 4.38 (8 recent votes)
  10. Sarn Park: 4.36 (5 recent votes)

Newer service areas always tend to do better here, although you can spot surges where major refurbishments have taken place.

What's impressive is not so much the ones in the top spots, but the ones which manage to maintain a high score despite a large number of votes. At the time of writing, Beaconsfield, Donington, Tebay and Gloucester are doing this - a strong showing from Westmorland, considering that's half of their estate. Occasionally some of the smaller service areas will rank high with a small sample, which is less impressive.

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

Worst Services

  1. Bodmin Moor: 1.00 (2 recent votes)
  2. Appleby Magna: 1.36 (6 recent votes)
  3. Tunbridge Wells: 1.40 (4 recent votes)
  4. Red Post: 1.40 (4 recent votes)
  5. Bilbrough Top: 1.50 (4 recent votes)
  6. Cirencester: 1.50 (5 recent votes)
  7. Beacon Hill: 1.57 (5 recent votes)
  8. Fourwentways: 1.61 (13 recent votes)
  9. Leicester Markfield: 1.75 (6 recent votes)
  10. Tot Hill: 1.92 (7 recent votes)

You can use the drop-down boxes on the left to move between 'worst motorway services' and 'worst services of all types'. That's because there are a lot of very small A-road service areas that naturally have very little to offer, and it's difficult to fairly categorise them.

As with the previous ranking, you do need to be careful that the smaller service areas could have smaller sample sizes.

Even among motorway sites, the pattern seems to be that many of those featured here are either very small or - at the other end of the scale - extremely busy.

Most Votes

Current results:

  1. Stafford (northbound): 4.48 (44 recent votes)
  2. Tebay: 4.28 (29 recent votes)
  3. Gloucester: 4.27 (28 recent votes)
  4. Beaconsfield: 4.03 (28 recent votes)
  5. Lancaster: 2.72 (22 recent votes)
  6. Bridgwater: 2.15 (21 recent votes)
  7. Leigh Delamere: 3.84 (20 recent votes)
  8. Podimore: 3.08 (20 recent votes)
  9. Wetherby: 2.66 (20 recent votes)
  10. Reading: 4.22 (19 recent votes)

The figures here refer to the rating, rather than the number of votes.

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

The Operators

Current results:

  1. Westmorland: 5.00 (6 recent votes)
  2. Moto: 3.71 (17 recent votes)
  3. Welcome Break: 3.64 (11 recent votes)
  4. Extra: 3.57 (14 recent votes)
  5. Roadchef: 2.93 (14 recent votes)
  6. EG Group: 2.69 (16 recent votes)
  7. Applegreen: 2.24 (20 recent votes)
  8. Circle K: 1.00 (2 recent votes)
  1. Euro Garages: 4.49
  2. Welcome Break: 4.10
  3. Extra: 3.53
  4. Roadchef: 3.34
  5. Moto: 3.16

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. EG Group'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. Another one to have jumped to the top was Westmorland, who we eventually added as an entry in their own right once they became famous for more than just Tebay.

Ireland (Republic Of.)

  1. Enfield: 4.75 (3 recent votes)
  2. Fermoy: 4.50 (2 recent votes)
  3. Barack Obama Plaza: 4.33 (4 recent votes)
  4. Birdhill: 4.25 (2 recent votes)
  5. Carlow: 4.20 (3 recent votes)
  6. Kilcullen: 4.00 (4 recent votes)
  7. Gorey: 3.86 (3 recent votes)
  8. Castlebellingham: 3.75 (2 recent votes)
  9. Cashel: 3.70 (4 recent votes)
  10. Junction 14 Mayfield: 3.50 (2 recent votes)
  11. Manor Stone: 3.00 (2 recent votes)
  12. Lusk: 2.64 (8 recent votes)
  13. Athlone: 2.25 (4 recent votes)
  14. Wicklow: 2.20 (4 recent votes)
  1. Lusk: 5.00 (new entry)
  2. Galway Plaza: 5.00
  3. Barack Obama Plaza: 5.00
  4. Junction 14 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 service areas 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. Some of these rankings will suffer from a shortage of votes. Only official service areas are shown on this list.