Prices still sky-high at new service stations

Sky-high service station prices
25 Oct, 2012 12:44pm Richard Yarrow

A bag of essentials will cost far more, even at the UK's newest services

The extortionate cost of buying anything from a cup of tea to a litre of fuel has always been one of drivers’ biggest complaints about motorway service stations.

So will the new facilities opened last month at Britain’s latest service station, Cobham, between J9 and J10 of the M25 in Surrey, be any different?

We recorded the price of a basket of goods from the various shops located on the Cobham site – plus petrol and diesel at the filling station – and compared it to prices at the nearest supermarket, a Sainsbury’s in Cobham village less than 10 minutes away.

Regular visitors to service stations won’t be surprised to see that prices for almost every item were cheaper off the motorway, but it’s eye-opening to see how much of a premium businesses operating on the motorway charge customers. A bottle of water comes with a near-200 per cent price increase, while the Shell filling station charges 6p a litre more for fuel than Sainsbury’s.

Andrew Long, CEO of Extra – the company that operates Cobham services – said: “We can’t control the pricing. We encourage the shops to be competitive, and we know that McDonalds has a ‘same price anywhere’ policy. It’s helpful that we have competition in the building.” He added that stores have added costs in the fees they have to pay to Extra, which is a mixture of flat-rate rent plus a percentage of turnover or profit, plus the need to be open 24/7.

Sainsbury's Cobham Services Difference (£) Difference (%)
Restaurant cooked breakfast £4.29 £7.99 £3.70 86%
Chicken sandwich triple pack £2.80 £3.99 £1.19 43%
Highland spring water 500m £0.50 £1.49 £0.99 198%
Regular cappuccino £1.85 £2.50 £0.65 35%
Walkers crisps grab bag £0.60 £0.99 £0.39 65%
Cadbury’s Dairy Milk 49g £0.59 £0.79 £0.20 34%
Litre of petrol 138.90p 144.90p 6p 4%
Litre of diesel 143.90p 149.90p 6p 4%
Semi-skimmed two pints £0.89 £0.89 £0.00  None