This page provides a non-technical guide to the different types of signs used to advise drivers of an upcoming trunk road service area. There is a similar page for Motorway Signs.
Between 1982 and 2002, A-road signs would be either white-on-green or black-on-white depending on the class of the road. This is now no longer the case, and signs must always be be either white-on-blue (motorway) or black-on-white (A-road). The remaining white-on-green services signs were supposed to be removed by 2015, but many remain.
The rules outlined below apply to service areas that meet the required standards. Due to the variable standard of A-road facilities (and the variable competence of highway employees) there are a lot of situations which don't follow these rules to the letter. Individual exceptions can also be authorised.
Where a motorway service area is accessed from another road, Diagram 2310.1 should be used on any non-motorway approach, if a sign is needed. This sign is similar to Diagram 2919.1, but it doesn't include a header board or the price of fuel. The sign is the operator's property.
Note that while most service areas that are positioned at a motorway junction are motorway service areas, this isn't automatically the case. Some only qualify for A-road signage, and some don't qualify for anything at all. There is also no rule about how important a side-road has to be before it can get full signs: the B1224 has full signage for Wetherby, for example.
Even though the standard set of motorway signs were changed in 2012 to include more brand logos, this (and in fact all A-road signs) remain unchanged, and continue to use traditional symbols.
This blue sign was introduced in 2002. Before then, large green signs would be used. The new style is similar to the original unofficial A-road services signs.
No other signage is permitted for A-roads approaching motorways, although there are some examples, like on the A3 and the A282.
Much like the approach sign on the motorway, Diagram 2313.1 is placed half a mile before a service area, or more if that would interfere with other signs. There are two completely different signs which can be used here:
- Diagram 2313.3 includes a plate saying either 'not 24 hours' or 'fuel only 24 hours'. Precise opening hours should never be given.
- Diagram 2313.5 should be used for services which are open to lorries only (includes the HGV symbol and "lorries only") - but note the confusion further on.
- A variant of Diagram 2313.5 should be used for services which ban lorries, with a red bar through the symbol and "lorries only" omitted (this can be seen below).
All of these signs allow for the geographical name of the services to be included - it's not mandatory, but it is becoming increasingly common for each service area to be named. The symbols on the sign are varied depending on the facilities, and can include: WC, petrol pump, either a cup or a fork and spoon, LPG, tourist information and a bed. They no longer need to include the disabled symbol.
Other than those mentioned above, there is no blanket allowance for any additional messages, such as "last services before motorway" or "with access to all routes", although they are common.
These signs are the responsibility of the operator.
Where the service area is at a junction, there is a similar range of signs to be included immediately before the diverge. The signs provide the same information but include an arrow pointing in the correct direction (which is almost always down a slip road). If the previous sign was a Diagram 2313.1 then Diagram 2313.2 should be used here, 2313.4 should come after 2313.3 and 2313.6 should come after 2313.5 - the latter is the example used here.
The bed and lorry symbols must be reversed if the arrow is pointing towards the right.
The purpose of this sign is to assure drivers that they really do want the next exit, even though it goes somewhere else. These signs are also the responsibility of the operator.
Unlike on motorways, there are no other signs provided to tell you what service areas are coming up. A sign giving you more advance warning has simply never been drawn up, probably because A-road facilities vary so much, so a sign saying "Services 17 miles" isn't especially helpful.
As with every rule on this page, there are examples that break it. The A14 has yellow signs listing all the service areas coming up. A sign on the A34 lists "Services" on the route confirmatory signs, as if it were a town.
For service areas that are accessed directly from the main road, the entry point was originally marked with a Diagram 2314.1. This said "Services" and had a left-pointing chevron.
The chevron implied that the entrance was at a right-angle, which usually isn't quite right, especially with modern safety standards.
As a result, since 2002, Diagram 2314.2 allows an arrow pointing to the top-left, just like similar signs usually found at a junction. There are extremely few examples of this in action.
Unlike the motorway equivalent, these signs are the responsibility of the operator.
Where services aren't immediately accessible from the road, the legend 'Services' on a white patch should be used to direct traffic to the right place. This includes the sign at the exit from the road, which is the example on the right.
The 'Services' legend must always be in black-on-white, unless the service area is classed as a motorway service area, in which case it must be white-on-blue. In both cases, a full name may be used.
Where a junction provides access to two different service areas, or one service area that has two entrances, the regulations don't offer any advice as to how the two can be differentiated. Normally, motorists will just see two different directions for "Services", as is the case at Markham Moor, Willowtree and Picket Post. Ferrymuir is now called "alternative services" to avoid confusion.
The word "Services" on a black-and-white sign with an arrow can also be used to give directions to what the rules call "a generic description of a facility". This is generally done on non-trunk roads, so is explained further down.
Traders in by-passed communities often ask for signs to direct traffic back onto the old road. They or the local authority can fund a Diagram 2308.1 sign which points to "local facilities" and includes the symbols WC, petrol pump, cup, spoon and fork, bed and tourist information as required. For more specific facilities, Diagram 2328 should be used, which is in white-on-brown tourist colours.
If the direction to these facilities is not obvious, Diagram 2309.1 points to them and includes the distance.
Diagram 2025 looks like a normal junction sign, but has an extra road leaving the destination and rejoining the main carriageway. This can also be used to show a village which is alongside the main road and allows you to easily drive through it.
The regulations note three different types of truckstops, and treat them all completely differently.
"Trunk Road Truckstops (fully qualifying)" use black-on-white signs, very similar to the 'Approach Sign' given above but with the words "lorries only" and a HGV symbol added. This seems to be the preferred way to signpost truckstops, but note that they use the word "services".
"Truckstops signed from the SRN" use white-on-black signs, and instead of saying "services - lorries only", they say "truckstop". Therefore you have to wonder what the difference between this and the previous sign is. One simple explanation would be that this example is only meant to be used on motorways, but the 2016 regulations explicitly say it can be used on "non-motorways" too. The 2018 Traffic Signs Manual seems to suggest that any facility that is "lorries only" must have black signs, and not white.
A quick look at truckstops around the UK shows that highway authorities don't seem to know what the difference is either. Tayside (A90) uses white 'services' signs, Holyhead (A55) used black 'services' signs, Rothwell (A14) mostly uses white 'truckstop' signs and Red Lion (A4500) uses black 'truckstop' signs. Those from before 2008, before truckstops were officially acknowledged, tended to improvise with green signs, or they'd fall under the final category.
The third category is "Trunk Road Truckstops (not meeting criteria)", and these are selected on a case-by-case basis. They do not use words, but just show the parking symbol, along with other facilities such as toilets and a pay phone.
These signs are all paid for by the operator.
While lay-bys aren't service areas as such, it's worth noting them. These are built and run by England's national highway authority and the 1 mile sign should either consists of Diagram 2501 (the blue P sign) or, for larger services, Diagram 2502, which is black-on-white and can include the symbols for parking, toilets, pay phone, tourist information and HGV spaces. The entrance should have a Diagram 801 sign (the standard parking sign).
Very large lay-bys are classed as "picnic areas" and treated as a tourist attraction, similar to a scenic viewpoint. For this reason, lay-bys that need more than the symbols given above (like those with picnic tables, toilets or refreshments) should use white-on-brown signs. This can cover a wide range of roadside car parks, none of which qualify as service areas.
The rules described here are created by what's now called National Highways, who manage trunk roads in England. Other authorities are expected to follow this policy if they want to signpost a service area, but the rules weren't created with local roads in mind and things quickly become messy.
A common grey area is what happens when responsibility for a road passes from National Highways to a local authority. The evidence from Redwings (where the A1 became a B-road) and the A45 (where the road was downgraded) is that the signs are often left up and appear to be forgotten about.
In cases where a local authority road approaches a National Highways road at a junction which has a full service area, it won't normally have signs, simply because nobody will agree on who should pay for them. If National Highways are changing the junction and paying for new signs anyway, or if the developer is building a new service area and paying for new signs anyway, then signs may be placed on the local road too.
Those two points apply to service areas with full advance signage, of the type described throughout this page. There is one more circumstance which really complicates things: it's what the rule book calls "a generic description of a facility".
You aren't allowed to use brand names on road signs, so if you have a situation where you need to tell people which lane goes to the McDonald's (for example at Coastways), you have to think of a more generic word to use. "Services" is often used as a substitute for giving brand names, and this is acceptable, even if the place doesn't actually qualify as an official service area as per the national policies.
That final complication almost always applies only to local roads, as these days the national highway authority will usually insist on full signage being provided if you're going to be building near a major road. However there are still some exceptions, for example on the A50 near Uttoxeter, there are two exits in quick succession and one of them is described as "Services" to prevent people mixing them up.
Until the introduction of the green sign in 1982, there were no permitted signs for any non-motorway services.
The Department for Transport had started to use standard motorway signs for some A-road services, which attracted criticism from motorway operators who reckoned their reputation was being dragged down by unscrupulous roadside garages.