Rip off motorway fuel prices prevented from being cut due to red tape

Motorway service station fuel prices could be as much as 12p cheaper, but National Highways red tape is allegedly preventing it.

smart motorways

Motorway fuel prices could be as much as 12p lower, but alleged red tape from National Highways is preventing service station operators from cutting their prices.

Service station petrol stations are well-placed to take more than they perhaps need to out of the pocket of their customers, because what can you do? If you need fuel on the motorway, that’s that.

So, it is perhaps a surprise to know that the largest service station operator in the UK, Moto Hospitality, wants to cut its at-the-pump fuel prices.
In fact, Moto Hospitality, which runs 70 motorway service stations across the UK, would like to cut its fuel prices by as much as 10p or 12p per litre, but it says that it is prevented from doing so by National Highways, the government agency in charge of the maintenance of national-level roads in the UK.

In an interview with Auto Express, Moto Hospitality’s chief executive, Ken McMeiken, said that he began the process of trying to lower fuel prices at the company’s service stations over two years ago. 

However, doing so required new signage on the motorways, digital signs that allow drivers and motorcyclists to know what the price of fuel at an upcoming service station is at that time, so they know whether or not they want to turn off the motorway and head into the services.

McMeiken told Auto Express that Moto Hospitality was only allowed to put up one sign at one of its sites (on the M5 at Frankley North), and that it was not allowed to put up a sign at a second site (Leigh Delamere on the M4) after the Frankley North sign had been trialled for one year to prove that the signs are safe. 

Now, he says that “it’s taking forever” to get a sign up at a third site, on the M6 at Lancaster. 

McMeiken said that he anticipated the trial period would be much shorter, between three and six months, and that he thought the successful end of the trial period would lead quickly to a rollout of the signs across the country. As a result, the comparatively slow pace of the signs’ rollout in reality is a cause of frustration for McMeiken, who says he has written to government ministers and the CEO of National Highways but has had no luck in getting them to move more quickly in allowing Moto Hospitality to put their signs up more quickly.

The aim, McMeiken says, is to reduce the fuel prices at Moto’s service stations to a level which is competitive with off-motorway forecourts, which would be between 10p and 12p per litre. 

When McMeiken was asked whether it would be possible to lower the fuel price without the signs, he said that this had been trialled, but that there was not enough of an increase in customer volume to warrant the drop in fuel price.