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Motorway services are still open for snacks, fuel and toilets - more details.


Thame services

Location:

A418 at Thame

Signposted from the road.

Postcode:

OX9 3SB

(Google Maps link)

Access/Layout:

Single site located at a junction.

Rating:



The service area at Thame functions as a half-way point on the slow road from Oxford towards Milton Keynes.

Facilities

Catering: Starbucks Drive Thru Hotel: Travelodgebook Forecourt: Esso, Asda On the Move, Greggs, Subway, Starbucks on the Go, Tango Ice Blast, AdBlue4You, Car Wash, Jet Wash, Free Cash Machine

Parking Prices

Short stay customer parking is available for cars. No HGV parking is available.

This information is provided to us by third parties. You should always check with staff on site.

Contact Details

🏢 Address:
Long Crendon Road
Thame
Oxfordshire
OX9 3SB


Trivia and History

The Thame Bypass opened in 1980. At the time, there was a whole package of improvements planned for the A418, and there were rumours that it could be upgraded to become part of a major cross-country route connecting Oxford and Cambridge. As a result, the new bypass attracted a flurry of interest from developers who wanted to be the first to serve the new road.

By total coincidence, Sleepy Hollow, Travelodge's head office, is positioned opposite this Travelodge. It was occupied by United Biscuits, and became Travelodge's in 2006.

Competing Plans

Petrol station sketch.
An artists' impression of the Margram plan.

Particularly of interest is Trusthouse Forte, who said they spent several years studying the road. They were working on a three-stop strategy, and believed that building Little Chefs at Thame, Leighton Buzzard and Baldock would give them good coverage of the new Oxford-Cambridge route. In the Thame area, the first place they looked at building a Little Chef was near Cuddington. They eventually dropped this in favour of a plan for a new service area at the western end of the new bypass, with access from the bypass and from Oxford Road. This would have had a restaurant and a petrol station operated by Burmah.

A local developer put forward a plan to build a service area on one of the fields severed by the construction of the eastern roundabout in 1985. It would have had a large hotel, a family restaurant and a petrol station.

Esso put forward the first version of the plan that was eventually built in 1987. It had a petrol station and restaurant, but initially no hotel. They called this "Proposal D", so we know there were at least three more options on the drawing board at some stage. Esso revealed that they were expecting Granada to operate the restaurant. This was around the time Granada were opening smaller buildings at Esso sites; the building shown on the plans is much smaller than anything they ever did open, but they could have been about to experiment or about to ask for it to be made bigger.

BP later put forward several variations of a plan they called Thame Bridge services in 1988. This was to be built on the westbound side of the bypass, immediately after the first roundabout, where a farm access gate had been provided (and is still there today). A petrol station, shop and restaurant would be provided, while a new footbridge would allow visitors to cross the River Thame and access a picnic area. The restaurant wasn't named, but would have looked like any other roadside restaurant of the time.

At the same time, Margram planned a service area on the opposite side of the field, with access from the B4011 and directly from the bypass. This had a restaurant and petrol station. Again the restaurant wasn't named, but we know that Margram did design work for Little Chef and McDonald's - and this looked more like the former than the latter.

All of these plans were rejected. The BP plan was considered to be the best of the bunch, but it (and all the fields around the roundabout) were prone to flooding. There was concern about many of the road layouts, involving junctions close to the roundabout. The local authority wasn't convinced that a large service area was needed, and they were worried that if the HGV facilities were too good, lorries would detour from the M40 just to park up here. The Esso and Margram options were said to be too visually intrusive and disconnected from the town.

The developers appealed (all of them except the local developer) and the case was taken to a public inquiry. This agreed that new facilities would be needed, and worked on the basis that larger facilities would be better. The BP and Forte options were dropped because they were too small and cramped.

Two more options from Oxfordshire County Council were considered: the western site, to be built on the redundant section of road known as Highfield Close, had space for a restaurant and petrol station and was again ruled to be too small. The eastern site, to be connected to the A4129 and the A418 where the football ground now is, had space for a HGV parking area and a picnic area as well as the usual. Other developers revised their plans, and Forte proposed a much larger site in the same corner, with space for a Little Chef, Coffee Stop, Travelodge, a petrol station and HGV parking.

Forte Travelodge.
The Little Chef sign in 1997.

In the end the Esso plan was approved. By now it had been revised, and now included space for a hotel, as well as a new flood management strategy. It opened in 1995, with the restaurant provided by Forte's Little ChefHistory, later joined by a hotel provided by Travelodge.

Site History

Under Granada ownership, a Burger King was added to the Little Chef in an extension. In 1999 there were plans to make it a drive thru, but this didn't happen.

The Little Chef was the only one in the country with a logo introduced in around 2003. It was created by design agency Keanebrand, and marked the start of an attempt to move the brand away from its functional, service station image to that of a more relaxed dining experience. Some of the signs were never changed, and several new owners of Little Chef chose not to roll it out. In 2011, a similar logo was used as part of the 'Wonderfully British' refurbishment.

The filling station had been operated by Esso themselves since opening and was one of their On the Run cafes which offered Costa for a time. Euro Garages acquired the filling station in the mid-2010s and rebranded the shop to SPAR along with replacing the On the Run café with Greggs and Subway concessions.

Under Euro Garages' ownership, the Little Chef closed in 2017. The building was left empty, with the Burger King continuing to trade alone. The former restaurant seating area was later given to Burger King as overflow, with the former Little Chef kitchen area being hidden behind a fake wall.

Following several setbacks, Euro Garages received planning permission to demolish the building in October 2020. It will be replaced by two purpose-built drive-thru pods branded Burger King and Starbucks. Construction on the Starbucks took place in Spring 2021 with EG’s 137th UK Starbucks store opening on 25 June 2021. The Burger King is due to follow however this has been delayed due to issues with demolition works of the former restaurant building.

As part of the works, the HGV parking bays have be removed to make way for the Starbucks unit. A condition of the original planning permission was that HGV parking must always be provided, but Oxfordshire County Council have now suggested they don't feel this is necessary.

The SPAR store in the forecourt was replaced by Asda On the Move in autumn 2021.

Alternatives

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Oxford (6 miles)Services on the A418none nearby