Plans for 24 new motorway services

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THOSE responsible for John Major's Citizen's Charter will be celebrating a significant achievement today - and one close to the Prime Minister's heart - with the publication of plans for up to 24 new motorway service stations.

Breakfasts in motorway Happy Eater restaurants were part of the John Major folklore in the early days of his administration. He later took full advantage of being seen to apply the common touch with a speech to the Tory party deploring the lack of lavatories for car-bound under 10-year-olds.

Today's announcement will detail private sector interest in service stations on 10 motorways, including three on the M40, where there are no services, the M25, M20, M4, M5, M6 and M11.

Four stations, on the M56 near Chester, the M4 near Reading, the M20 near Folkestone and the A1M near Darlington, have already received planning permission.

Provision of service stations was deregulated 18 months ago and tight restrictions on locations relaxed to encourage the private sector. It is hoped the new stations will be a mixture of large sites and smaller French-style rest areas. Remaining regulations limit stations to a minimum gap of 15 miles and to the need to provide petrol and parking 24 hours a day.

The AA welcomed the proposals and said tired drivers needed the opportunity to take a break.

'Our only concern is that there may be a mad scramble to develop the 'easy' sites and the more difficult gaps, for example where planning permission is difficult to obtain, will be left without service areas,' Paul Watters, the AA's head of roads policy, said.