Todhills rest area
The first of a new era, Todhills was supposed to inspire a whole new generation of rest areas.
Catering: southbound only: Costa Coffee
Amenities: southbound only: Travelodge, Changing Places
Outdoor Space: Small grass area at back of car park
Charging Points: southbound only: GRIDSERVE Electric Highway 50kW CCS, 50kW CHAdeMO & 22kW Type 2
Forecourt: northbound only: Shell, Select, Deli by Shell, Costa Express
and southbound only: BP, Shop, Marks and Spencer Food, Wild Bean Café, Free Cash Machine
Short stay customer parking is available for all vehicles. No overnight parking is available.
This information is provided to us by third parties. You should always check with staff on site.
- 📞 Telephone number: 01228 674689
- 🗺 Grid reference: NY373622
🌍 Operators & Official Websites:
Trivia and History
The site has sometimes been referred to as 'Moss services', referring to the Moss Café. BP still refer to their branch as this, while Shell call theirs 'Carlisle North'. The rest area is also referred to as a "services" on the M6's electronic signs when there is a problem. This includes warning that no overnight parking is available, even though overnight parking isn't a mandatory facility at any service area.
As a result of its history, the filling stations on each side here have different operators, usually charging a very different price. It was primarily regarded as a Moto site, owing to its history, until Moto pulled out of the northbound side.
The southbound side also has a huge abandoned area where the old truckstop was: this hasn't been used in 20 years and is now mostly just rubble, despite the updated road layout including provision for it to be built on.
Electricity North West are currently upgrading the electricity connection at Todhills, with a view to increasing its electric vehicle charging capacity in future. Shell are looking to build six electric vehicle charging points in their forecourt.
The A74 was the busy and important road between Glasgow and Carlisle. By 1999, the section immediately north of Carlisle was the only part of the route not have been replaced by a motorway. This road, which was notorious for its outdated design standards, had its own service area at Todhills.
The southbound service area was developed in the 1970s - probably after the road was dualled in 1970 - as the Moss Café and filling station. The filling station was operated by BP and positioned right next to the road, while the café would become a well-known landmark, with a coal fire which was popular with drivers.
On the opposite side, a piece of land owned by Lowenthwaite Farm was divided into three. Shell opened a forecourt in around 1986, which was positioned away from the road. It was joined by a Happy Eater in around 1987, which became a Little Chef in 1993. That would gain a Coffee Stop that became a Burger King. The third portion was never used.
The plan to replace the A74 with the M6 was confirmed in 1987. Ordinarily, motorways are not allowed to have exits for places that don't qualify as a full motorway service area, and full motorway service areas weren't (at the time) allowed to be as close together as Todhills would be to Gretna, but the Department of Transport had suggested that they were willing to let the latter point slide so as to avoid the bad publicity and cost of forcing four businesses to close.
With the plans in full swing, the Moss Café secured planning permission to replace the southbound facility with a new motorway service area in 1993. With this under their belt, they sold their café (but not the forecourt) to Forte, who already owned the Little Chef across the road.
The Department for Transport briefed Forte and others on the situation:
Most of that is reasonable, but the last point was an offer which had never been made before. It wasn't necessarily inappropriate (in fact the government policy was encouraging smaller service areas), but it was unchartered waters. They then provided figures to show that an upgraded Todhills wouldn't need to be as big as the regulations required it to be, owing to its nearby competition.
Much to the bemusement of the authorities, Forte responded to this offer by demolishing the Moss Café in 1999, replacing it with another Little Chef, joined by a Travelodge. The old HGV parking area was closed off. The Highways Agency had commented that it was a big step down from the motorway service area which had already been approved, offering HGVs less facilities than what was there previously.
With a Little Chef on either side of the road, Todhills did at least now look like a formal service area. Some Granada-style signs were placed in the car park during their rebranding. BP continued to call their facility 'Moss services' or 'The Moss'.
When the Compass Group created Moto, Todhills was regarded as a major service area, and the Little Chefs were treated by them like full Moto service areas. After Compass sold Little Chef, Moto continued to operate the Little Chefs under a franchise agreement, with almost no Moto branding visible. They advertised it as "operated by Moto" on a special section of their location listings until 2008, when it was removed, although it was later put back.
A Bespoke Solution
When work started on the new motorway in 2006, the situation at Todhills was largely unchanged; both operators had evidently taken the Department's do-nothing option, but the Highways Agency still hadn't explained how a sub-standard service area would be integrated into the strict motorway rules.
With the road under construction, the Highways Agency launched a public consultation which conveniently concluded that there should be a new class of facility. Called a "motorway rest area", it would be a small motorway service area which didn't need to provide food or fuel. Just eight months later, Todhills became the first and only example.
When the road upgrade was completed, Moto swapped the Little Chefs at Todhills for a Costa, claiming it fitted the rest area concept better - although in reality it was to fit their national portfolio. This created an unusual situation for Moto where the Costa brand is applied across the whole building, including the lobby and former kitchen, with little evidence of it being a Moto-operated site. The southbound building used to have a large advert promoting Moto's M&S at Southwaite services.
The new motorway needed to take away the access road that used to run to the right of the southbound forecourt. A new access road was built on the left-hand side, which is why this road is surprisingly well-marked for such a small service area: it was designed by the team who had been designing the new M6. This may also explain why the new road refers to the Costa by the unusual title "Food & Rest", as the project team would have been used to avoiding brand names.
On the northbound side, the landowner had proposed using the extra land to create 44 new car parking spaces 10 HGV bays, a hotel and a designated picnic area. The agents arguing for this called the existing facilities "limited and somewhat mediocre". The expansion didn't happen, but the road construction did include building much longer slip roads. Some of the vacant land was used by the new road scheme.
Other motorway rest areas have since been designated, but as of 2021, they all have ambition to become a full service area. Todhills looks set to be the only one in the long run.
Moto permanently closed the northbound Costa Coffee store in February 2023, with the building being sealed up and access to the car park blocked off, with cars parking in the HGV parking area instead. As a result, the GRIDSERVE electric vehicle charging point was also removed.
The southbound Costa Coffee continues to be operated by Moto, though with the adjacent hotel, that side may experience higher sales. It will also have very different running costs, owing to its different history.
|Southwaite (13 miles)||Services on the M6||Gretna (A74(M), 6 miles)|
|Southwaite (13 miles)||Moto services||none nearby|
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