Transport minister John Hayes MP has pledged to meet his opposite number at the Department for Communities and Local Government to try to free the blockage placed on the development of HGV parking at motorway services areas (MSAs) by local authorities.
Speaking at the launch of the first annual survey of MSA users, Hayes heard from the operators of the UK’s leading services that their planning applications to expand existing lorry parking were often blocked by district councils even if the larger facilities are in the local transport plan.
“We have the opportunity and the willingness to expand our truck parking,” said Welcome Break CEO Rod McKie. “But local councils are often reluctant to grant permission.”
In response Hayes said he would arrange a meeting with local government ministers to discuss “local authority guidance on incremental expansion.” Hayes also said he was considering measures to make it more difficult for trucks – especially foreign vehicles – to park in “unsuitable places” such as residential areas and MSA slip roads.
“The chances of getting a fine paid when they have disappeared off back home is small so we are looking at a clamp-first policy,” the minister said. “But we also need to drive up the standard of HGV parking to make the appeal of parking sensibly more appealing.
“We will look at how to make the expansion of responsible parking more straightforward. Kent is the most obvious example but not the only one.”
Hayes is also considering changing the system by which drivers are paid an overnight allowance for nights out – drivers can now claim up to £26.20 without receipts – to force them to spend the money on proper parking. “We are yet to decide but we are thinking about how to ‘voucherise’ the offer,” said Hayes. “We are talking to the RHA and unions about this.”
The MSA survey covered all 112 MSAs in the UK and sought the views of 8,700 users including truck drivers. Overall 90% of users where satisfied with their experience, but this figure was slightly lower at 84% for professional drivers – which includes commercial vehicle drivers. Only 48% of professional drivers were very satisfied compared with 61% of leisure users.
Professional users visit MSAs more often than other groups, with 55% using them frequently and 25% regularly. While there was general satisfaction with the quality of food on offer, poor value for money remains a key gripe, with only 25% rating this aspect very good.
One HGV driver said there was a need for “better facilities for HGV drivers as we do long hours and deserve good quality facilities at reasonable prices”.
Hayes praised the MSA operators for the “significant investments and improved offer” they had delivered in the past two decades, but told them: “We need to be still more ambitious – we can and must do more. We need to more on HGVs to create a better experience and more space is critical.”
Top 10 motorway services
1. Reading M4 westbound (Moto)
2. Rivington M61 northbound (EuroGarages)
3. Corley M6 northbound (Welcome Break)
4. Gloucester M5 southbound (Westmorland)
5. Gloucester M5 northbound (Westmorland)
6. Knutsford M6 southbound (Moto)
7. Norton Canes M6 toll (Roadchef)
8. Tebay M6 northbound (Westmorland)
9. Tebay M6 southbound (Westmorland)
10. Cobham M25 (Extra)