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Amenities for Travellers

By G. Tweddle and C.A. Nash


This paper reviews the policy and practice regarding the provision of amenities such as petrol filling stations, refreshments, toilets and telephones on trunk and other arterial roads off the motorway network in the UK. Following a review of policy, and of existing levels of provision, a brief comparison is made with other countries. An account is given of interviews with motoring organisations and providers of facilities, and a small survey of road users is described. Finally conclusions are drawn and recommendations made as to necessary policy changes. \ud \ud The basic policy of providing fuel, refreshments, toilets and parking facilities every 25 miles appears reasonable. However, we were unable to find any systematic source of information on the extent to which this is achieved, and indeed neither the Department of Transport nor in general local authorities showed any great interest in or willingness to discuss this subject. The comments of motoring organisations and casual observation both suggest that actual facilities fall a long way short of this ideal, whilst where facilities were available, hours of opening, quality and value for money were all seen as problems. Providers of facilities pointed to the fact that a minimum level of long distance traffic was needed to provide the potential for commercially viable provision of facilities, and that the costs of the planning system and the widespread presence of illegal fringe operators further limited the market for legal commercial operations.\ud \ud \ud There was some evidence that many other countries secure the provision of more adequate facilities by means of more active measures by the government. Mostly, the evidence was anecdotal, but in the case of Germany, details were obtained of a publicly owned company which is responsible for developing appropriate facilities and leasing them to the private sector for operation. \ud \ud The survey of road users produced a disappointingly low response, but did indicate that whilst most road users were able to find the facilities they need most of the time, a significant minority cannot; this appeared to be a particular problem in respect of toilets, where 12% of respondents were unable to find one when needed. \ud \ud To what extent does this add up to a situation where lack of amenities for travellers amount to a problem requiring government action? We believe that it does. Basically our argument is that the market is failing to provide adequately for the needs of travellers for the following reasons: \ud \ud (a)The cost and uncertainty of the planning process restricts the supply of facilities. The risks are too great for small companies to be interested, whilst large companies will only pursue more favourable sites. \ud \ud (b)The potential for adequate commercial provision of facilities is further restricted by the presence of widespread illegal operations from converted buses or caravans. Whilst these offer some minimal level of refreshment facilities, their evasion of public health and planning legislation, and their failure to provide facilities such as toilets and telephones, means that they can undercut and still further reduce the market for more adequate facilities. \ud (c)There are substantial economies of scale in the provision of facilities, which mean that only busier sites can be exploited commercially. Yet there may be benefits from provision of facilities at other sites which cannot be recouped in the form of revenue to operators but which make provision of facilities economically worthwhile. In addition to the presence of consumers surplus, it is likely that consumers would be willing to pay a premium in order to ensure that facilities such as toilets and telephone are available if they should need them. The technical term for such a premium is an option value. \ud \ud (d)There is a failure in the provision of information in that no comprehensive maps exist which provide adequate information on the location of facilities; nor is there adequate signposting or information on whether facilities are open. \ud \ud In the light of these problems, we recommend the following action: \ud \ud 1.Local authorities should be obliged to gather and publish comprehensive information on the availability of facilities in their area; where facilities fall below centrally stipulated guidelines, they should be required to designate sites for facilities in local plans on which there would be a presumption in favour of development. \ud \ud 2.Where facilities are deemed to be necessary but cannot be provided commercially, a grant towards the provision and - if necessary - operation of the facilities should be made available. This should be seen as part of the basic provision of the road transport infrastructure of the country, and paid for out of road user taxation. It is likely that the most efficient way of securing facilities will be by competitive tendering, with garages or other roadside operations for whom the facilities are complementary likely to offer the most competitive bids. \ud \ud 3.Alongside the provision of more adequate facilities, stringent action should be taken to eliminate illegal snack bars from the roadside. To the extent that one goes further and only grants planning permission to establishments that offer a full range of facilities, including toilets and telephones, one is of course introducing an element of cross-subsidy in that these are likely to be paid for in part in the cost of refreshments. Nevertheless, to the extent that road users in general want such facilities provided, a modest degree of cross subsidy may in this case be reasonable. \ud \u

Publisher: Institute of Transport Studies, University of Leeds
Year: 1993
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