The Highways Agency has published a new policy for the operation and provision of service areas on motorways and major A roads, aimed at giving drivers greater choice and raising standards. In the policy, the Agency sets out a range of things it expects operators to provide from parking to toilets as well as giving them more freedom to innovate and improve services to customers. The policy will also introduce a new
independently-operated “quality scheme”, which will review service areas with a means to maintaining or raising standards – similar to the rating of hotels.
Through improving choice and service for customers, the Highways Agency says the new policy will also help road safety by encouraging drivers to take breaks more frequently. Some sites offering a smaller range of facilities may also be permitted in certain circumstances between existing service areas. Operators will also be encouraged to provide or upgrade picnic areas at existing sites.
The Highways Agency will also investigate how service areas can become more sustainable by considering a number of new ideas which could lead to sites being used for conference facilities, coach interchanges or to provide a base for park and ride or park and share. Any development planned for service areas would be reviewed using a detailed assessment process in order to protect the countryside and ensure that service areas do not become ’destinations in their own right’.
The publication follows an extensive consultation by the Highways Agency, which took account of the responses received from road users, industry and other interested parties.
Roads Minister Tom Harris said: “We are committed to providing and encouraging better services for road users. This new policy will enable us to work with the private sector to encourage greater choice and facilities for customers at service areas on motorways and major A roads. We’re also seeking to raise standards through a new independently-operated "quality scheme".
“We also want to see service areas become more sustainable so we will now consider, in the right circumstances, the development of transport interchanges such as park and ride facilities or coach interchanges at service areas. This could reduce the number of single occupancy vehicles on our roads.
“Helping drivers to make their journeys safer is also paramount. Falling asleep at the wheel is the cause of around 20 per cent of accidents on major roads, on long journeys. By improving the facilities and providing more choice for customers, we want to encourage drivers to take breaks more frequently and cut the number of incidents caused by tiredness.”
The policy applies to all new facilities and to any sites which wish to increase their floor space by 50% or more. Relevant sections will also apply when any specific elements of existing services are redeveloped, such as parking or toilets.
Other key areas covered by the policy include:
– The type of facilities, how they are signed and their standards.
– Retail space: this is constrained to ensure that service areas do not attract trips and become “destinations in their own right”. The previous limit of 5,000 sqft is increased slightly to 500 sqm (by 8%), plus a further 50 sqm for the sale of local products to support the service area making tourist information available to visitors. Sites with a designated site on each side of the motorway will be allowed to provide up to 500 sqm of retail space at each location, provided customers are not required to cross the motorway to reach essential facilities.
– Coach interchanges/park and ride/park and share facilities. In the right circumstances, these could reduce the number of single occupancy cars on the roads.
– Development of small-scale conference facilities and a business centre at motorway service areas where they would not attract business away from the existing facilities in the surrounding area.
– A requirement that motorway service areas provide a parking bay for abnormal loads, the size of bay required will cater for up to 80% of abnormal load sizes.
– Overnight parking facilities for caravans and motorhomes.
– The use of lay-bys on trunk roads for trading.
– Provision of parent and child facilities.
– Access for disabled road users and other equality issues, which will be monitored through the new independent quality inspection regime.
A copy of the policy (DfT Circular 01/2008): ‘Policy on service areas and other roadside facilities on motorways and all-purpose trunk roads in England’) is available from the Highways Agency and Department for Transport website at: http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/roads/network/policy/roadfacilitiespolicy.pdf