Motorway service stations have been branded a ‘national disgrace’ for ripping off motorists by up to 29p a litre on fuel.
Ministers have repeatedly promised to crack down on the practice which sees the petrol stations charge sky-high prices.
But a Daily Mail investigation has found that it can still cost £15.40 more to fill up a family car on the motorway than at forecourts just miles away.
Our snapshot survey suggests drivers pay 19p more per litre for petrol and diesel – and in the worst case we discovered, 29p more.
Families also face inflated costs for food and drink, with some retailers more than doubling prices at service stations compared with their high street branches.
The Mail visited ten motorway service stations – and their nearest non-motorway petrol stations – across the country this week. The worst example of petrol price inflation was found at Burtonwood Services on the M62 near Warrington, Cheshire, where drivers at a Shell garage are being charged 149.9p for unleaded, compared with 121.9p at a Tesco supermarket nine miles away.
Motoring groups branded the gulf in prices a disgrace. They are furious that a pledge by then transport secretary Chris Grayling last year to stop drivers being exploited has come to nothing.
The motorway forecourts surveyed by the Mail were all run by Shell and BP at service stations operated by Welcome Break, Roadchef, Extra and Moto. We discovered huge differences across the country, from Newcastle to Exeter.
Motorists are also being charged extra for food and drink, with Waitrose and WHSmith among the chains found to be more than doubling prices on some items. A litre bottle of San Pellegrino water was £2.55 at Waitrose Birchanger Green Services, compared with £1 at a branch in Bishop’s Stortford three miles away. Starbucks, Burger King, KFC, McDonald’s and Greggs were also found to be hiking prices.
Luke Bosdet, of the AA, said: ‘The Daily Mail’s investigation exposes a failure of governments that is a national disgrace.
‘Rip-off pump prices at motorway service areas have been kicked down the road by UK politicians for years and years. ‘At first, pump prices at motorway service areas were 3p or so higher than average. That could be justified for a 24-hour service. But then it became 6p, then 10p, and now it can be 20p higher.’
Service station operators argue that higher prices for fuel, food and drink reflect the extra costs of running around the clock. But Jason Lloyd, of PetrolPrices.com, said: ‘Motorway service stations have a captive audience based on charging drivers when in most need.’ A spokesman for Shell said: ‘We take multiple factors into account in setting fuel prices, including supply, distribution and operating costs, with the biggest component being tax and duty.’
A BP spokesman said: ‘We monitor prices on a site-by-site basis daily and always try to maintain value for money for customers.’ A Department for Transport spokesman said: ‘Previously, we have raised our concerns about the high price of motorway fuel. Drivers should not be in a position where they risk running out of fuel because of price concerns.’