New – Access Guide to motorway service areas

Highways England

Highways England, are encouraging everyone to plan their journeys before setting off and appreciate that for some people this isn’t as easy as for others. With disabled drivers representing five per cent of the driving population, they have introduced a new service to break down barriers and help people reliably plan and feel confident about their journeys.

Highways England has partnered with AccessAble, the UK’s leading provider of detailed accessibility information, to help motorists plan where to stop for a break at any one of the 114 motorway service areas across England, for better, safer journeys.

For many years, disabled people and carers using AccessAble have said how much they would value having access guides for motorway services, and what a difference comprehensive accessibility information would make to planning a trip.

The new guides, available online or via the free AccessAble app, are 100 per cent facts, figures, and photographs to help motorists plan their visit. They cover key areas including parking, toilets, petrol stations, shops, and restaurants, with detailed information on everything from staff training and hearing loops, to walking distances and Changing Places.

In addition, the two organisations have worked together to create virtual route guides. This new type of guide, which uses 360-degree imagery, will enable visitors to ‘virtually’ explore routes to key facilities like accessible toilets and Changing Places, so they can find out exactly what to expect when they arrive.

Highways England encourages everyone to plan their journeys before setting off and for some people this isn’t as easy as for others. With disabled drivers representing five per cent of the driving population, the access guides are one of many new services Highways England is introducing to break down barriers and help people reliably plan and feel confident about their journeys.

Q&A 

Q: What aspects of accessibility do the guides cover? 

A: AccessAble specializes in producing pan-disability access guides which cover all areas of accessibility. We’ve worked with them to ensure the access guides for motorway services help as many people as possible plan where to take a break for a better, safer journey. Each guide contains over 1000 individual elements of accessibility information; from descriptions of accessible parking and toilets, to details on electric charging facilities and opening times.

Over 21 years of engagement with hundreds of disability groups across the UK has informed what information goes in to each guide, so that they address a full spectrum of access requirements. 

Q: How will the guides be kept up-to-date?

 A: The guides will be reviewed on an annual basis. Each motorway service area will be contacted every year to find out changes that have occurred. The sites will then be revisited by AccessAble surveyors to capture updates for the guides.

There’s also a ‘Something Changed?’ button on every access guide, where users can feedback if they find any changes when visiting the site.

Q: How/where can people access the guides?

A: You can find the access guides on the AccessAble website – http://www.accessable.co.uk – and the AccessAble app, available for free on IOS and Android. Search ‘Motorway Service’. Links to the guides are also included on the Highways England website, as well as the websites of all motorway service area operators, including Moto, Roadchef, Extra and Welcome Break.

Q: How many disabled road users are there in England?

A: According to the Department of Work and Pensions, 22% of people report having a disability. Many of these use the road network either as drivers, passengers, or both. Disabled drivers represent 5% of the driving population, which equates to approximately two million people.

Source: An accessible road network? Disabled user experience on England’s motorways and major ‘A’ roads

Q: What is Highways England’s role when it comes to roadside facilities?

A: The Department for Transport (DfT) sets the policy for the provision of roadside facilities and the services they need to provide. Highways England supports the planning process for roadside facilities, provides the road signs for them and supports the DfT in managing the policy.

 Q: Is Highways England responsible for improving roadside services?

All motorway service areas and other roadside facilities are private businesses. We work collaboratively with the operators and providers of these facilities to help improve experiences for all people visiting them while travelling on our network.

Roadside facilities, such as motorway service areas, provide a safe place to stop and take a break while travelling on England’s roads. We recognise and value the safety, ease of access and diverse customer choices that all roadside facilities provide.

Q: Why has Highways England funded these guides?

A: With more than four million journeys taking place daily on our network, our roads play a vital part in everyone’s lives. We want to make sure every person gets to where they want to go, safely and reliably. Being able to stop and take a break on a journey is an important part of this.

Whilst motorway services are generally very accessible for our customers, the access needs of our disabled customers can be very varied and specific to their individual circumstances. These guides will help our customers identify the services that best meet their access requirements and plan their rest breaks accordingly. This will help all our customers have safer, more stress-free journeys.

Q: What has been the role of MSA operators in developing these guides?

A: All of the operators have been involved from the start of the project. The role of the operators has been to assist AccessAble surveyors gain access to each MSA in order to survey and produce the access guides. The operators have also provided information for their landing pages on AccessAble, and are adding links to their own websites directly to the access guides so that everyone can find the guides as easily as possible.