End of the North/South Divide: Watford Gap set to be demolished to make space for EV chargers

Watford Gap and an EV charger

The Watford Gap services could be demolished for more EV chargers

Felix Reeves

By Felix Reeves

Published: 03/11/2023

- 09:29

Many famous names have visited Watford Gap including the Beatles and the Rolling Stones

The historic Watford Gap services could be demolished under new plans to expand electric car charging facilities and build a new car park.

The service station, which is arguably the most famous motorway stop in the UK, is expected to be torn down and rebuilt to give electric vehicle drivers more space.

Watford Gap was the UK’s first motorway service station when it opened in 1959 on the M1, with many seeing it as the gateway between the north and south.

A redevelopment of the northbound and southbound services has been planned, which could see most of the single-storey buildings demolished.

Watford Gap Services

The service station was first opened in 1959


The new services are expected to include new Roadchef facilities including 150 electric vehicle charging points and a two-storey car park.

Electric car drivers may even get the chance to relax in an airport-style executive lounge for travellers to check emails and make calls while they charge.

The famous services were also a popular middle ground for bands in the 1960s to meet when travelling between gigs.

Patrons included the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd, with pop legend Cliff Richard also being a visitor.

Mark Fox, chief executive of Roadchef, said the Watford Gap was “past its sell-by date” and was in need of changes, the Telegraph reported.

The company is currently in talks with the Department for Transport over a new lease, with the DfT owning both northbound and southbound sites.

A spokesperson for the Government department said discussions were ongoing and stressed the importance of expanding charging services.

However, not everyone is happy with the low-carbon redevelopment, with one expert saying it would be a “great loss” if it were to be demolished.

Catherine Croft, director of the Twentieth Century Society, described Watford Gap as a cultural and architectural icon”.

She added: “Service stations like Watford Gap celebrated the glamour and sense of possibility that travel within the UK offered, and in most cases made innovative use of new materials, both robust concrete on the exteriors and new synthetic fabrics, carpets and curtains in vibrant colours indoors.”

Roadchef is in partnership with Gridserve to set up six “Electric Super Hubs” at motorway service stations around the country.

The deployment of the project will see a minimum of six 350kW-capable EV chargers at each site.

Speaking in September, Paul Comer, director of EV implementation at Roadchef, said: “At Roadchef, our ambition is to achieve net zero by 2040.

“While as a Motorway Service Area (MSA), it’s our responsibility to make sure the infrastructure is in place ahead of 2030 when the Government plans to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars, this investment also goes a long way to deliver on our sustainability goals and certify our environmental, social and governance (ESG) achievements.


Watford Gap Services

The northbound Watford Gap services


“As more people travel on the roads, and the majority will be in EVs, it’s essential for our facilities to be expanded and upgraded to meet the demand.”

You may like