The UK motorways with the biggest gaps between service stations revealed


The longest stretch of UK motorway without a single service station is a 43-mile stint of the M25, identified as the route where passengers will have to cross their legs for the longest.

The London orbital motorway from Cobham, Surrey, to South Mimms, Hertfordshire, has not service stations for drivers and other vehicle occupants to relieve themselves, stock-up on overpriced snacks and take a break from their journeys, according to analysis.

A traffic-free run – which is highly unlikely given the M25’s infamous track record – on this stretch would take you a foot-tapping 37 minutes to cover. 

Hold it in motorway stretches: Analysis of distances between service stations have revealed the routes with the longest sections without a dedicated location to pull over to stretch the legs, grab a snack and take a bathroom break

Hold it in motorway stretches: Analysis of distances between service stations have revealed the routes with the longest sections without a dedicated location to pull over to stretch the legs, grab a snack and take a bathroom break

The review of the nations motorway network and biggest gaps between service stations was conducted by vehicle leasing firm, Select Car Leasing.

While it named the 43-mile section from junction 9/10 to junction 23 of the M25 as the longest between services, there was also a dishonourable mention for the a combined stretch using the M40 and M54.

Driving from the M40 at Warwick to the M54 on the way to Telford is the ‘longest practical journey which can be made entirely by motorway without passing any service areas’, according to Motorway Services Online, who helped the car leasing firm compile the data.

The stretch of motorways in question constitutes 63 miles of service-free – and therefore toilet-less – driving.

A spokesperson for Motorway Services Online said: ‘This involves taking the faster route via Birmingham Airport, the alternative route via the M5 is slightly longer but does include service areas.’

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James O’Malley, company director at Select Car Leasing, warned motorists to be aware of just how long you might be required to hold it in – and the dangers linked to trying to do so.

This map shows the motorways with the most substantial stretches without a service station for motorists to stop and stretch their legs

This map shows the motorways with the most substantial stretches without a service station for motorists to stop and stretch their legs

He said: ‘We’ve all been there – caught short and desperately counting down the miles before you reach the next service station.

‘And it’s not just unpleasant, it can also be dangerous, too.

15 longest motorway stretches without service stations

1. M25, Cobham to South Mimms – 43 miles

2. M4, Reading to Membury – 39 miles

3. M4, Membury to Chippenham – 36 miles

4. M1, Oval to Leicester Forest East – 35 miles

5. M11, Birchanger to Cambridge – 33 miles

6. M1, Woodall to Woolley Edge – 32 miles

7. M8, Paisley to Harthill – 31.5 miles

=8. M40, Beaconsfield to Wheatley – 29 miles

=8. M3, Winchester to Fleet – 29 miles

=8. M5, Sedgemoor to Gordano – 29 miles

=8. M6, Corley to Hilton Par – 29 miles

12. M62, Birch to Hartshead Moor – 28 miles

13. M6, Tebay to Southwaite – 27 miles

14. M6, Lymm to Charnock Richard – 24 miles

15. M20, Maidstone to Hythe – 23 miles

Source: Select Car Leasing and Motorway Services Online

‘When you desperately need the loo your concentration drifts and you lose focus, as you instead fantasise about relieving yourself.

‘When you’re piloting a moving vehicle down a busy motorway at 70mph-plus it’s a distraction that’s highly likely to impair your driving skill.

‘It’s worth familiarising yourself with the distances between motorway services on stretches of road you use frequently.

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‘And if you know you’re about to embark on a long journey, plan comfort breaks in advance so that you’re not caught short.’

Highways England recently revealed that around 100 people are killed on motorway hard shoulders each year – highlighting the dangerous of hard shoulder misuse by motorists who choose to relieve themselves at the side of the road.

And if you cause an accident, you could be charged with careless driving – and hit with a £5,000 fine, up to nine penalty points and even a lengthy driving ban. 

Of all the service stations in the UK, the biggest in size is the one at the start (or the end, depending on the way you’re travelling) of the longest stretch of motorway without one.

According to Motorway Services Online, Cobham services, operated by Extra, on the M25 ‘stretches across two floors and only opened in 2012, filling a large gap on a very busy section of motorway’.

It added: ‘Its 36-pump petrol station is one of the biggest in Britain.’

The smallest service stations (one that’s signposted from a motorway as a services) are Appleby Magna on the M42 and Old Inns on the M80, which both have little more than a petrol station. 

‘This means they are likely to be the smallest and the quietest; Old Inns is marginally smaller,’ the expert website said.

Driving on the M6 from Tebay services to the next stop-off destination at Southwaite (pictured) is 27 miles without a service station - the 13th longest stretch on the list

Driving on the M6 from Tebay services to the next stop-off destination at Southwaite (pictured) is 27 miles without a service station – the 13th longest stretch on the list

The longest logical motorway journey you can do before reaching a service area is by joining the A329(M) at Reading, and heading for the M1 in Bedfordshire, where the first service area is at Toddington – 58 miles along.

The longest end-to-end, logical motorway journey you can make without passing any service areas at all is from the M58 near Bootle to the M67 near Mottram, which would be 52 miles.

The longest motorway without any service areas at all is the M60, which is 36 miles long. 

As it’s a ring road, you’re unlikely to go the whole length.

Last year, This is Money revealed the motorway junctions that you don’t want to miss as they can turn into extended detours.

The worst case scenario in the list is failing to turn off the westbound M26 at junction 2A for the A20 in Kent.

Motorists will be forced to drive a staggering 18 miles along the motorway before the first opportunity to turn around presents itself.

In fact, the first chance to turn back isn’t until junction 6 on the M25, which the M26 has turned into by this time.

The 36-mile detour to the M26 turn-off for the A20 takes 31 minutes and costs a driver around £3.40 in wasted fuel, the study said at the time.

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