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Motorway services user survey - most stop to visit washrooms, but are they clean?
Transport Focus has just released its 2018 report into the best and worst of England's 111 motorway services, following its survey of 9,600 motorists on their experiences. One purpose of the survey was to identify which aspects of the visitor experience most influence overall satisfaction and of course washroom facilities and their cleanliness have had a big impact, bearing in mind that most respondents - by a long way - cited the need to visit the toilet as the main reason for driving into motorway services in the first place.
The independent transport user watchdog carried out its first large-scale survey in 2017 and has compared this year's results with those findings, identifying which facilities listened to their customers, and made improvements.
Motorway services areas need to make money; the more visitors they have, the more money they're likely to make. Almost half of respondents (45%) said they plan beforehand to stop at a particular motorway services, which shows that there's no room for complacency with regard to hygiene and cleanliness.
When it comes to washrooms, there were some variations across individual operators; for cleanliness, the range was 77% to 96%, while for quality of the fixtures it varied from 75% to 95%. Westmorland had the highest ratings of any operator for toilets.
There hasn't been much change in the perception of washroom cleanliness, with 60% 'very happy' and 29% 'fairly happy' both in 2017 and 2018. Last year 90% said cleanliness was 'good'; this year it was 89%. When it came to the quality of fixtures, 50% said they were very happy both years; 33% said they were fairly happy in 2017 and in 2018 this figure had dropped to 31%. Last year, 82% said fixtures were 'good'; this year it was slightly lower at 81%.
Some 62% of disabled users said they were very happy with washroom cleanliness this year, up 2% from last year's 60%, yet this year only 88% rated washroom cleanliness as 'good', compared to 89% last year. Quality of fixtures has dropped to 49% from 50% when it comes to making them 'very happy', also dropping a percentage point from 31% to 30%. A total of 82% said quality of fixtures were good last year, compared to 80% this year.
When it came to HGV driver satisfaction, the results were down significantly for the cleanliness and number of showers. Only 66% found shower cleanliness to be good compared to 83% last year, with 47% 'very happy' last year and only 31% as happy this year. Last year, 36% were fairly happy; this year that figure was 35%. There were comments that some facilities didn't offer showers for women, so operators not wishing to fall foul of discrimination laws should take note!
"Toilets are rated highly for cleanliness and the number available, but the quality of fixtures scores somewhat lower," says Jeff Halliwell, chair, of the findings. "There are also significant differences between the operators across these factors; there is clearly still some work to be done here to achieve a consistent, high standard.
"The impression of the building is important to customers and tends to rate slightly lower than other areas. This is one of the areas that visitors suggested could be improved at some locations, mentioning the need for better maintenance or a refurbishment. However, there were also plenty of comments noting and appreciating where improvement works had been carried out and new facilities provided. Investment is recognised and welcomed by the MSA visitors.
"Across the country, investment by operators appears to have made a genuine difference to the experience drivers have from service stations. Last year, Stafford South scored only 70% on the customer satisfaction rating and ranked second to last. This year, the services ranked second place with a 99% satisfaction rating-a vast improvement. In 2017, Wetherby also shot from 93rd place, last year, to third place, in 2017.
"The survey showed an overall 92% of motorists felt satisfied with their visit to motorway service area, with 94% rating customer service as 'good'.
"Those who make a living from driving a vehicle score the lowest on customer satisfaction, at only 88%, yet this driver group experienced the largest increase in satisfaction ratings since surveyed in 2017.
"While 90% of visitors with a disability reported high levels of customer satisfaction from using a motorway service station, only 70% said the facilities catered well for their needs-motorway service station operators, take note."
Speaking to PetrolPrices.com about the survey results, RAC foundation director, Steve Gooding said: "No-one expects motorway service areas to be five-star attractions but they do serve an important safety role for those on long journeys, particularly drivers who need to take a break.
"When a service area gets a reputation for being unattractive, the risk is that people put off the stop they ought to make, and that can have serious consequences if they then run out of fuel or fall asleep.
"What we need is a basic, minimum standard for all our motorway service areas: an easy-to-navigate layout, clean facilities and fairly priced fuel. It's a simple formula but one that some stop-off places still don't seem able to get right."
To read the report in detail, visit:
9th August 2018