is ideally placed to rescue the wise driver who seeks a haven from the maelstrom. Come to think of it, its large fleet of emergency recovery trucks is ideally placed to mop up those who don't.

It's a huge relief to decelerate and come to rest in the car park, with the prospect of coffee and cake, a wander round the shops, and a visit to the loo. And the absence of the threat of sudden, unavoidable death.

Thirty or forty minutes later, it is once again a human being who takes the wheel.

Yet I doubt if any driver leaves any motorway services entirely satisfied. The rest has been incomplete, and the recuperation imperfect. The problem is that the rules forbid drivers to leave the motorway system at a service point. There is one way in and one way out. The motorway planners were determined that local and trunk traffic should not mix (and the services concessionaries were determined that there should be no competition).

The forced company with whom you share this time is far from relaxing - a bunch of near-androids, hyped up on speed, with fresh injections of insanity on every wave of traffic. No contact has been made with the real world.

At best, motorway services are Purgatory - ante-rooms to Hell.

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