But if drivers don’t believe motorway services are attractive places to take a break, many won’t stop and they will exercise their consumer choice and continue driving, or leave the motorway to seek out alternative facilities.
From petrol to polo mints, MSA customers pay significantly higher prices than they would pay at retail outlets off the motorway network. This is mainly because MSA operators have higher running costs because they have to be open 24/7 and 365 days of the year, but also because there is no competition between service areas on the same motorway. It has been estimated that well over half of visitors stop only to use the toilets or to take a break from driving, without buying anything.
Operators have invested heavily and worked hard to achieve higher standards, but motorists continue to pay high prices. Recently, the government announced some relaxation of the ancient rules on MSA signing by allowing descriptions of what is available to be included on the advanced signing. The IAM believes this does not go far enough and it is now time for another independent inquiry into how motorway service areas can serve motorists better, and make our motorways even safer.