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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 June, 2004, 13:41 GMT 14:41 UK
M-way services 'worst in Europe'
BBC
The UK finished bottom for the third year running
The UK has the worst motorway service stations in Europe, a survey says.

The UK finished bottom for the third year running in the survey of stations in 10 countries carried out by the AA Motoring Trust.

The UK fared especially badly in terms of the cost and quality of food, and hygiene standards.

And Sandbach South, on the M6 in Cheshire, was named and shamed as Europe's worst station - the only one of 62 tested that was rated very poor.

Sandbach, operated by Roadchef, had featured in an earlier test when it was rated only poor.

'Poor hygiene'

This year's tests showed the UK's service stations had improved little since the earlier tests in 2000 and 2001.

Woolley Edge, on the M1 near Wakefield, West Yorkshire, has featured in all three tests but had not improved from its original poor rating.

The price of standard meals at the eight service stations tested in the UK was twice that in Italy and Germany.

You could stop for petrol and perhaps buy some provisions but we wouldn't recommend taking a break there
AA Motoring Trust inspectors
Hygiene standards were rated poor in four of the eight stations.

Sandbach and Clacket Lane on the M25 in Kent, also operated by Roadchef, came in the bottom three in Europe - just ahead of the Village Catalan services in France, which came last.

Cardiff services had the UK's best hygiene standards, coming a close second in Europe.

Within the UK, only Oxford on the M40 was rated good for catering, with Tebay on the M6 in Cumbria and Clacket Lane rated average.

Cardiff, Woolley Edge and Frankley, on the M5 near Birmingham, rated poor and Sandbach rated very poor.

But the UK scored well for family friendliness, choice of goods in the shop and friendliness of staff.

No services stations in Europe were rated very good and just 10 were rated good.

The inspectors rated 38 as acceptable and 13 as poor, with only Sandbach rated very poor.

Family friendly

The other countries tested were Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Slovenia, Spain, and Switzerland.

The highest rated service stations were in Germany.

The inspectors said in their report: "The UK had the highest percentage of bad results.

"You could stop for petrol and perhaps buy some provisions but we wouldn't recommend taking a break there."

Richard Freeman, from the AA Motoring Trust, told the BBC it was time for serious improvements.

He said: "The basic things like toilet hygiene, standard of the food, the standards of the surroundings and the prices they're charging simply don't stack up with what's happening in the rest of Europe."

In reaction to the report, Roadchef said it had "noted" the criticisms of its Sandbach service station.

In a statement, it said: "The company strongly feels that two visits to a site does not reflect the standards achieved by this MSA [motorway service area] on an ongoing basis.

"In particular, one of the visits coincided with the presence of a very large number of over-excited football fans."

It said it made regular surveys of its sites at different times of day, throughout the year and these results did not tally with those of the AA Motoring Trust.


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Kevin Bocquet
"Eight stations were surveyed in the UK, only two were judged to be acceptable"



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