Northern Ireland to get motorway service stations
Northern Ireland has never had a motorway service station before — and now it’s getting four.
Environment Minister Alex Attwood has announced planning permission for two new stations on the M2, with two more to follow on the M1.
On the M2, the new service stations will face each other on either side of the motorway at Browns Road, Ballycraigy, about two miles west of Sandyknowes roundabout.
Meanwhile, on the M1, the proposed service stations, which go to Lisburn Council tonight for ratification, will be located opposite each other almost midway between Lisburn and Belfast.
The move comes more than 50 years after the UK got its first motorway service station at Watford Gap in 1959.
In the 60s there were moves to transform a visit to the service station into a glamorous experience with restaurants fashioned in the latest style and smart ladies garbed in hostess style uniforms greeting motorists. But the glamour evaporated and they became bywords for soulless commercialism.
Northern Ireland got its first motorway, the M1, in 1962 and the M2 in 1969. But despite this, we’ve always missed out on the service station culture.
The Independent’s travel writer Simon Calder said: “I remember hearing that it used to be a day out. People would go and sit in these places like Watford Gap — it was fairly legendary.
“They must be quite depressing places to work, though, as you have a transient population that you are working with.”
Northern Ireland is the last place in these islands to get a motorway service station — there are scores in England, Wales and Scotland and the Republic of Ireland now has three. But that could be good news as we may learn from the mistakes of others. In recent years some of the British services have been revamped to become more attractive to their users — such as Tebay West on the M6, which won two stars from Egon Ronay in 2000 and now has a farm shop.
“I’m sure the Northern Ireland stations will be cheerier than the ones we have here,” Mr Calder said. “This will be fantastic news for hitchhikers. The standard way of getting round Britain is to hitch from one service station to the next — this will enhance the prospects no end.”
Last night Mr Attwood said motorway service stations will be good for travellers and for jobs.
“Their development will also provide a significant boost to the local economy, with a potential investment of some £20m,” the minister said.
Plans for a phased development of motorway service stations — allowing filling stations to open ahead of other facilities — were submitted last year by Petrogas Ltd which operates all motorway service areas on the island.
DoE Planning recommended approval for the new motorway service areas on the M1 and M2. Newtownabbey Borough Council has approved the M2 service stations and Lisburn council will discuss the M1 plans tonight.
10 things you didn't know about motorway service stations
1 The guitar riff for Cream’s Sunshine Of Your Love was written at a service station.
2 Liza Minnelli’s first film, 1967’s Charlie Bubble, was partly filmed at Newport Pagnell service station.
3 Watford Gap was once run by a company called Blue Boar — musicians were so used to saying See you at the Blue Boar that it’s rumoured a young Jimi Hendrix thought it was the name of a trendy nightclub.
4 Cardiff Gate services featured frequently in the BBC1 television series Gavin And Stacey, masquerading as Leigh Delamere services.
5 South Mimms Services features in the video for Three Lions, also featuring Robbie Williams.
6 Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain made his famous Munich Agreement speech at Heston Aerodrome in 1938 — it’s now the westbound car park of Heston Services.
7 Trowell Services in Nottinghamshire featured in an episode of Auf Wiedersehen Pet.
8 The last trace of Manic Street Preachers lead guitarist Richey Edwards (below) was his L reg Cavalier, left at the car park of Severn View services.
9 Watford Gap service station was the first place the Rolling Stones were photographed outside London.
10 Singer songwriter Roy Harper wrote a song criticising the food at Watford Gap on his 1977 album Bullinamingvase: “Watford Gap, Watford Gap, plate of grease and a load of crap”.