Extra MSA are one of the newest of Britain's motorway service area providers. Unusually, run their service areas like a shopping centres, leasing units rather than running them as franchises. In the past this had created an usual line-up of brands but now it tends to be a mix-up of the most popular names, run largely by other operators. It's like a 'best of' compilation album.
In March 2020, Extra described their business as "umbrella branded services", as a way of explaining that their facilities are dependent on decisions made by other operators. At this time they opened their newest, state-of-the-art service area at Leeds.
With an estate of new-build service areas all of a similar design, Extra are the only operator to have all of their service areas located off a junction. They have been attracted to some of the busiest corners of the motorway network, leading to some of the biggest and busiest service areas. Each one has a glass-fronted building, often with a south-facing courtyard.
Extra promote their range of facilities to local residents, using billboards, flyers and internet banner ads targeted at people local to each service area. New regulations, announced in 2022, prohibit this behaviour at new and refurbished sites, although this is unlikely to make much difference. Their policy of leasing units to third parties can make it difficult to ensure facilities are available at night.
Extra came about after the government deregulated motorway services in the 1990s in order to encourage more competition.
They developed a number of new service area proposals under their parent company, Swayfields, who worked with Stadium Group. The first few proposals said that Swayfields were making investments with Texaco, and that some amenity buildings would be run by Welcome Break.
When it came to building their first two sites (Tibshelf and Winchester), the main building was leased to Roadchef. This left Swayfields to run the petrol station, which they did under the Gold Star name, which itself had Texaco branding.
Extra's first full site was Cambridge on the A14, which opened in 2001.
Described as "posh" by the press, it had limestone flooring and indoor maple trees, with a particular focus on business meetings. They had the advantage of watching the shortfall of the big three operators and insisted that they would not use franchises, instead creating their own brands to keep the prices down. Strictly speaking this was true, but mostly they've leased units to others have chosen to franchise. They also said some of their units would become conference facilities.
In 2003 Extra bought two services from Margram, and in 2007 Gold Star services were finally branded as Extra. This, coupled with the addition of Derby with Burton and Leicester, and the proposed services at Folkestone, Beaconsfield and Cobham, would have created a fairly large estate.
After nine years of growth, Extra fell into administration between March and October 2010. The non-motorway services were sold off, while self-run facilities were replaced by units let out to catering providers and rival operators (as opposed to self-run facilities branded as a franchise, which is what most other services do).
In 2015, plans for three new service areas - all older ideas which hadn't been pursued - were developed.
Their rekindled enthusiasm for building new services comes following a period of quiet stability, where trade at Beaconsfield and Cobham made up for their large investments and Extra began to recover from the burns of less successful projects.
These new service areas tend to perform well in Transport Focus and VisitEngland's surveys. Their 'umbrella' policy means that they tend to attract many of Britain's most popular brands, turning their buildings into social destinations, although that popularity means they are no longer 'posh'. The 2022 study found that Extra had an "exceptionally high" number of people who would recommend them to a friend, and that they were the most popular of the multi-site operators.
Extra have always used the 'cross' symbol pictured above, which if you look carefully has motorway lane markings on it. The brand was created by Building A Theme, and is often accompanied by the strap-line, "going the Extra mile".
Long after the other operators, in 2009 Extra started putting brand names alongside their own on the motorway signs in an effort to attract extra customers. Brand names used included Starbucks, M&S, Greggs and McDonald's.
Unlike other operators, Extra haven't created their own branded internal road signs. The signs they use in their car park are very close to the official UK road signs, often with a few extra logos. Each site has a large i-media TV advert across the entrance.
The following sites are run by Extra: [view on a map]
- Baldock (A1/A1(M))
- Beaconsfield (M40)
- Blackburn with Darwen (M65)
- Cambridge (A14)
- Cobham (M25)
- Cullompton (M5)
- Leeds Skelton Lake (M1)
- Peterborough (A1/A1(M))
Extra own the petrol forecourts at these services and lease them out:
Extra are currently developing plans to build:
The following services were run by Extra:
The following services were planned by Extra but they were never built:
- Allerton (A1(M))
- Brands Hatch (M20)
- Burton-in-Kendal - southbound services adjacent to northbound services (M6)
- Catthorpe (M1/M6/A14)
- Chapeltown (M1)
- Chertsey (M25)
- Chigwell (M11)
- Chiltern Chalfont (M25)
- Creswell (M6)
- Flaxby Covert (A1(M))
- Great Wood (M4, two plans)
- Hardwicke (M5)
- Kirby Hill (A1(M))
- Oakley Wood (M1)
- Maidenhead (M4)
- Redbourn (M1)
- Rugby (M6)
- Sheffield (Smithy Wood) (M1)
- Shepshed (M1)
- Solihull (Ravenshaw) (M42)
- Waltham Abbey (M25)
- Warren Copse (M4)
- Warren Farm (M25)
- Winwick (M6)
- Wootton Bassett (M4)
- Worcester (M5)
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