EuroTest on Motorway Service Areas: good results but families and the disabled continue to be neglected
Brussels, 21 June 2012
Never before in its 12-year history has the EuroTest inspection of Motorway Service Areas come up with so many positive ratings throughout Europe. Inspectors awarded 33 “Good” ratings along with 27 "Acceptable" ratings. There were no ratings of "Very Good" or "Very Poor". And only five of the total of 65 service areas inspected along important travel routes in 13 European countries failed to make the grade, receiving a "Poor" rating (see the full breakdown of results here and a summary here). Inspectors set out to visit 65 motorway service areas and truck stops along important travel routes in 13 European countries.
However, weak areas identified include high prices, low pedestrian safety in outdoor facilities and, in particular, lack of quality services for families and the disabled.
“These results show that the main failing of Motorway Service Areas continues to concern the quality of services for families and the disabled. More should be done to make stop-off areas accessible for all”, said Jacob Bangsgaard, FIA Region I Director General.
Through EuroTest – an international testing programme for consumer protection, 18 automobile clubs in 17 countries, members of the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), have been putting the quality and safety of mobility in Europe to the test since 2000 for the benefit of their members and all mobile consumers in Europe.
Limited services for families
The biggest shortcomings were found when it came to services for families. Almost two thirds of the areas tested were rated "Poor" or even "Very Poor" in this category. Only around half of the service areas had outdoor children's playgrounds or indoor play corners. While all but three facilities did provide a baby's changing table, half of them did not have a separate room for this purpose, instead providing only a fold-down table in the disabled toilet or the ladies' toilet only. Bad news for fathers travelling alone with a baby in nappies.
No consideration for the disabled
Only ten times did the inspectors award full marks for a suitably designed toilet in a designated room for disabled travelers. At a good third of areas inspected, a wheelchair user had difficulty actually reaching the toilets. The only way to get there was via a steep ramp into the building or through entrance doors that were difficult to open. In some cases, staff had to be called and had to dismantle the barriers with considerable difficulty. Not something to look forward to in an emergency situation. In many motorway service areas leaving the parking area for the disabled meant having to go along or across the road.
High prices – low safety
Another issue that needs to be looked at are the prices charged at the restaurants and shops. Almost half of the motorway service areas inspected were found to be either expensive or very expensive. The price for standard items, such as soft drinks or chocolate was often twice the normal retail price, especially at the motorway service areas in Western Europe. The inspectors were also unhappy with Traffic/Parking at the facilities - a category which earned more than a third of the motorway service areas a red card. This was primarily due to a lack of footpaths along parking areas or from the parking areas to the building. Even after 12 years of inspecting motorway service areas, this continues to be a problem.
Even good motorway service areas can do better
More than half of the sanitary facilities inspected were modern and in good condition. The EuroTest inspectors were pleased to note that most of the facilities not only appeared to be good, but that good results were confirmed in 90% of the cases by hygiene lab tests, a stark improvement compared to previous years Motorways Service Areas tests. There was little to criticise in terms of the food on offer, inspectors were satisfied with the range of goods available in the shops, and with how friendly and helpful staff were. At almost all of the facilities, clear signs made orientation easy, and wireless LAN was provided at a good two thirds of the service areas inspected.
However there is still room for improvement across all categories and everywhere in Europe. Better services for families, barrier-free access and pedestrian safety as well as moderate prices are the areas where work remains to be done. This is the key to transforming dreary, average motorway service areas into good or even very good ones, and could give the poor ones a chance to catch up.
Notes to the Editor:
Methodology - How EuroTest assessed Motorway Service Areas:
For the 12th time in the history of the Motorway Service Areas inspectors set out to visit 65 motorway service areas and truck stops along important travel routes in 13 European countries.
The experts were on the road from 16 January to 8 February 2012. Using an extensive check list, each motorway service area was inspected twice on different days by different inspectors and without any advance warning for operators. This double test principle prevents the kind of coincidental results that might result from a single visit, so that the performance of a service area can be shown as objectively as possible.
The check list was broken down into the following categories: Traffic / Parking (weighting: 13 percent), Exterior facility / Access (7 percent), Service (5 percent), Catering (25 percent), Shop / Kiosk (8 percent), Family Friendliness (9 percent), Sanitary Facilities (13 percent), Hygiene / Lab Tests (12 percent) and Prices (8 percent). Each of these categories contained several sub-items. All in all, more than 110 items were checked in each inspection.
In both tests, points were given independently for all each of the different test criteria and then added up to reach attain the respective single result. The score reached is then expressed in five different ratings: on the positive side "Very Good", "Good" or "Acceptable"; on the negative side "Poor" or "Very Poor".
For a detailed list of results and explanation on the methodology visit:
Through EuroTest – an international testing programme for consumer protection, 18 automobile clubs in 17 countries, members of the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), have been putting the quality and safety of mobility in Europe to the test since 2000 for the benefit of their members and all mobile consumers in Europe. The EuroTest partners have constantly called for a Europe where the mobile consumer can circulate freely using quality infrastructure and services safely.
Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) Region I Office
The Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) Region I office, based in Brussels, represents 36 million motorists via its 106 Automobile Clubs.
For more information contact: Gabriel Simcic, Project Manager, FIA Region I, firstname.lastname@example.org +32 2 282 0817 or Niall Carty, Communications Manager, FIA Region I, email@example.com +32 2 282 0812