Westmorland’s Tebay South motorway services area in Cumbria has become the UK’s first operation to be awarded a five-star rating in national tourist board VisitEngland’s Motorway Service Area Star Ratings scheme.

The scheme has seen quality at motorway service stations improve across the board but family-run Tebay South is the first site in the country to achieve the top rating. There has been a 19% increase in the number of four-star ratings compared to last year, and 88% of participants in the scheme were awarded a three-star rating or above.

The Motorway Service Area (MSA) quality scheme has been devised to cover areas that are of key importance to customers. Working with the Highways Agency and the six main operators of motorway service areas – Moto, Welcome Break, Roadchef, Extra, Westmorland and EuroGarages – VisitEngland conducted three waves of assessments over the past 12 months and awarded the 107 participating MSAs with their appropriate star rating based on these visits.

On each visit, the assessor follows the whole of the customer journey, from initial arrival right through to the use of facilities, retail and catering outlets to departure. The assessment takes into account the quality and range of facilities and services for all aspects within an MSA. After all three visits have taken place, each individual site is provided with reports covering eight key sections – catering, cleanliness, food, forecourt, retail, service, site and toilets.

Tebay South, owned by operator Westmorland, excelled in all key areas of the assessment, and was particularly commended for its cleanliness, customer service, and quality food made from locally-sourced produce. The services adjoin an award-winning farm, which supplies the onsite butchers counter with fresh beef and lamb, and bacon is sourced from local Cumbrian farmers. Home-baked bread and cakes are served in the café, and the team also runs a very popular farm shop.

Janet Uttley, VisitEngland’s visitor attraction quality assurance scheme manager, said: “The team at Tebay South are to be warmly congratulated on being the first MSA in the country to achieve a five-star rating; our assessors were impressed by their dedication to providing a memorable, high quality experience to their customers. The Motorway Service Area Star Ratings scheme is focused on raising quality, and we are delighted to see that so many operators have embraced the scheme and used it as a business development tool.

“The last year has seen significant investment in infrastructure and staff training at motorway services across the country, and this has been reflected in the number of operators whose ratings have improved. We look forward to working closely with them, and the Highways Agency over the coming year, continuing our drive for quality and ensuring our motorway services offer the warmest welcome possible.”