Transport minister John Hayes has called for motorway services to be revamped to give a far more pleasing experience to customers.

The minister was delivering a lecture organised by the Campaign to Protect Rural England and the Campaign for Better Transport and began by suggesting that roads and infrastructure could and should be better designed and aesthetically pleasing.

He went on: “I want to see a similar vision for our road network and for the service areas. Service stations were once rather glamorous. Crowds flocked to the opening of the first service station at Watford Gap in November 1959, and to Newport Pagnell which opened the following year. But like the motorway system they served, the glamour faded quickly.

“They became more notable for bad food, congestion and litter than for providing a pleasant, friendly environment for motorists and their passengers to take a break. John Major made an effort to improve things when he told the 1992 Conservative Party conference that service stations needed to be reformed.

“And many were subsequently privatised. If you look at the latest service stations – at Beaconsfield and at Cobham – you can see good design beginning to creep back in, but we must do much more. From buildings that look like outstations of the South Bank Centre towards miniature Terminal 5s.

“More air and more light. I want to encourage owners and operators to go further. Providing green spaces as well as car parking spaces. Improving the quality and range of independent cafes and shops available. These places should be charming and eclectic, creating a break from the particular monotony of long distance travel, not adding to its monotony through their ubiquity.

“We’re making a big investment to install electric car charging facilities across the network. But my vision for service stations is not just to offer a place where cars can be recharged. But also where drivers can be recharged, relaxed and ready to carry on with their journey.”