Tourist board VisitEngland were tasked with inspecting all of England's motorway services on an annual basis, between 2011 and 2015.
The idea of an independent rating system which has its results advertised on signs has been suggested many times, but it was Circular 01/2008. The Highways Agency asked VisitEngland to create the scheme in 2008, and it began in 2011. The responsibility moved to Transport Focus in 2017, whose remit had recently been expanded to include customer satisfaction on what had been called the Highways Agency network. Transport Focus use use percentages rather than stars, which slightly reduces the number of full marks awarded.
The assessments were part of VisitEngland's national quality assessments, a project which was contracted to the AA.
Motorway service areas paid to take part in the scheme, so not all took part. Sites with separate facilities were rated separately, although some scored the same on both sides.
The ratings, which can be between one and five stars but are usually no less than three, were displayed on plaques at the front of each service area. Sites were awarded based on their performance during an anonymous assessments that looked at their quality, key facilities and audit. Sites were visited two or three times over the previous 12 months.
The results of the three main surveys are shown here. Each star rating was given a worded title, where 1 is "below satisfactory" and 5 is "excellent".
|Service Area||Operator||August 2011||May 2012||March 2015|
|Baldock||Extra||very good||very good||very good|
|Beaconsfield||Extra||very good||very good||excellent|
|Birchanger Green||Welcome Break||good||very good||very good|
|Blackburn with Darwen||Extra||good||good||excellent|
|Charnock Richard northbound||Welcome Break||good||good||excellent|
|Charnock Richard southbound||Welcome Break||good||good||good|
|Cherwell Valley||Moto||good||very good||very good|
|Clacket Lane||Roadchef||good||good||very good|
|Doncaster (North)||Moto||good||good||very good|
|Exeter||Moto||very good||very good||good|
|Ferrybridge||Moto||good||very good||very good|
|Fleet north-eastbound||Welcome Break||good||good||very good|
|Fleet south-westbound||Welcome Break||very good||very good||very good|
|Frankley northbound||Moto||good||very good||very good|
|Gloucester||Westmorland||n/a||was not open||excellent|
|Gordano||Welcome Break||very good||very good||very good|
|Hartshead Moor westbound||Welcome Break||good||good||good|
|Hartshead Moor eastbound||Welcome Break||good||satisfactory||good|
|Hopwood Park||Welcome Break||good||good||very good|
|Keele northbound||Welcome Break||good||good||good|
|Keele southbound||Welcome Break||good||good||very good|
|Lancaster northbound||Moto||good||good||very good|
|Lancaster southbound||Moto||good||satisfactory||very good|
|Leicester Forest East||Welcome Break||good||good||good|
|Leigh Delamere eastbound||Moto||very good||very good||very good|
|Leigh Delamere westbound||Moto||good||good||very good|
|London Gateway||Welcome Break||good||very good||very good|
|Membury eastbound||Welcome Break||good||good||good|
|Membury westbound||Welcome Break||very good||very good||very good|
|Michaelwood||Welcome Break||good||good||very good|
|Newport Pagnell northbound||Welcome Break||satisfactory||good||good|
|Newport Pagnell southbound||Welcome Break||good||good||good|
|Norton Canes||Roadchef||very good||very good||very good|
|Oxford||Welcome Break||very good||very good||very good|
|Peterborough||Extra||very good||very good||very good|
|Reading westbound||Moto||very good||very good||very good|
|Reading eastbound||Moto||very good||good||good|
|Sedgemoor northbound||Welcome Break||good||good||good|
|South Mimms||Welcome Break||very good||very good||very good|
|Southwaite northbound||Moto||good||good||very good|
|Stafford northbound||Moto||very good||??||very good|
|Strensham northbound||Roadchef||good||very good||good|
|Strensham southbound||Roadchef||very good||good||good|
|Taunton Deane northbound||Roadchef||satisfactory||satisfactory||good|
|Taunton Deane southbound||Roadchef||satisfactory||good||good|
|Tebay northbound||Westmorland||??||very good||excellent|
|Tebay southbound||Westmorland||very good||excellent||excellent|
|Warwick northbound||Welcome Break||good||good||good|
|Warwick southbound||Welcome Break||good||good||very good|
|Watford Gap northbound||Roadchef||good||good||good|
|Watford Gap southbound||Roadchef||good||satisfactory||good|
|Wetherby||Moto||very good||very good||very good|
|Winchester||Moto||very good||good||very good|
|Woodall northbound||Welcome Break||good||satisfactory||good|
|Woodall southbound||Welcome Break||good||good||good|
|Woolley Edge northbound||Moto||good||good||very good|
|Woolley Edge southbound||Moto||very good||very good||very good|
Cherwell Valley and Tebay received 5 star awards in 2013. The new Cherwell Valley was praised for its good design, while in 2012 Tebay southbound had set a record by being the first service area to get the full five stars.
A number of categories and comments were made during the first award season, in 2011:
- Beaconsfield came top in the internal comforts, picnic and dog walking categories.
- Donington Park was praised for having plug sockets and a good rural environment.
- Exeter had good environmental credentials
- Leigh Delamere eastbound had the best family changing rooms.
- They liked the landscaping at Stafford northbound and Killington Lake.
- Strensham northbound was said to be good for business travellers, and southbound had a good choice of seating.
- Tebay southbound had the best outside play area, best landscaping and was the best for families.
- Warwick had the best toilets.
- Woolley Edge had a good coffee shop.
Gloucester was described as "fabulous" during the 2015 study.