A new survey ranking the UK’s motorway service stations shows that some of the best and worst rest stops are on major road links in and out of Manchester.

Independent transport watchdog Transport Focus surveyed 8,700 visitors at all 112 service stations asking customers to rate the toilets, staff friendliness, food prices and more.

Overall, 90% of drivers said that they were satisfied with their visit, but there were large disparities across the country.

One of the closest service stations to Manchester City Centre scored a 100% satisfaction rating. Rivington Services Northbound, on the M61 near Bolton, ranked second overall, beaten to the post by Reading Services Westbound.

Drivers who are heading south on the M6 may consider stopping at nearby Knutsford Services, which ranks 6th overall in the service station rankings.

If you are travelling from Manchester to London via the M6 and the M1 then you could split the drive with a stop at third place Corley Services, which is almost halfway between the two cities.

Norton Canes Services on the M6 Toll also ranks highly in 7th position, but drivers are advised to avoid the nearby Stafford Southbound Services which was only beaten to the bottom of the rankings by Heston Services on the M4.

Top spots for a rest break

  1. Reading Services Westbound
  2. Rivington Services Northbound
  3. Corley Services Northbound
  4. Gloucester Services Southbound
  5. Gloucester Services Northbound

Worst of the bunch

  1. Toddington Services Southbound
  2. Rownhams Services Northbound
  3. Rownhams Services Southbound
  4. Stafford Services Southbound
  5. Heston Services Eastbound

How we use service stations

The survey also gave some interesting information about how we use motorway service stations and what business and leisure users think about them.

The survey found that service station users were typically on a journey of three and a half hours, with business and leisure users tending to take a break after being on the road for an hour and a half. Leisure users typically stopped for 20 minutes while business users stopped for15 minutes.

Only 42% of visitors planned to stop at a particular service station, three quarters (77%) used the toilets and half (50%) bought food or drink to eat in the motorway service station.

Contrary to much perceived wisdom about motorway service stations, 64% of service station visitors said that they though food and drink at their service stations was good value for money.

A report from insurance provider Admiral released earlier in the year, found that users in some parts of the country could pay four times more for a ham sandwich in a service station than a local supermarket.

Mood boost

Driving while tired, stressed or otherwise unhappy can be dangerous, particularly on long journeys.

The survey also asked drivers about their mood before and after using the facilities at the service station. They found that visiting a motorway services typically resulted in a 20 percentage point boost in positive emotions and a 17% decrease in negative emotions.

A quarter (25%) of people reported feeling tired, frustrated or stressed when they arrived at the service station, but only 9% reported these feelings when leaving. This highlights the beneficial impact motorway services can have on driving standards and safety on the roads.

Anthony Smith, Chief Executive of Transport Focus said: “Our research shows that up and down the country motorway services are providing customers with a good experience and are playing a positive role in helping them rest and recharge before continuing to drive. They tell us they feel less stressed and are more awake after a good break.

“Motorway service operators must not rest on their laurels however; our message is clear – use the results to deliver even higher levels of customer satisfaction in future.”

Transport Minister John Hayes said: “Motorways services can and should be lovely places for drivers to enjoy not just places they have to stop.

“Congratulations to those scoring the most highly. They show what can be done when what motorists want and deserve drives what is on offer.

“But users’ needs and expectations are constantly evolving. Now I want to go much further to raise and meet those expectations. My new taskforce will bring together industry and independent experts to look at how services can be fit for future motorists and reflect the particularity of localities which host these important facilities. Thoughtful design and a range of goods and services can make all motorway services as good as the best.”