Secret motorway exits on the M25, M6 and others – are they legal to use?



Anyone who has been stuck in a jam on the M25, M6 or other motorway will likely have wished they could just slip off at a secret slip road and get back on their way – but do these exits exist on motorways and can drivers use them?

With many drivers having heard rumours or these roads, variously dubbed secret exits, rear access, and side exit roads, it is actually true that many do exist on the motorway network – but thinking of them as motorway exits could end up with a fine or other penalty. Here motoring journalist and expert Pete Barden looks at what they are – and when you can and can’t use them.

Knutsford Service station on the M6. See the service roads - but can you use them?Can you use the service roads at UK service stations such as Knutsford above?  (Credit: Heikki Immonen/Wikimedia)

Are there secret exits from the M25, M6 and other motorways?

Yes. These so-called secret exits do exist on the UK motorway network. Many are for emergency vehicles, allowing them to get to the scene of an incident without having to battle through traffic. Using these is illegal for drivers and extremely dangerous as many open directly onto of off of the live motorway.

Alongside these, almost all service stations will have some sort of access road that connects them to the non-motorway network – or secret exits as many people would call them.

These are typically service roads for staff member and to receive deliveries from the local area without the need to access the motorway network. This will help staff and delivery drivers having to take longer routes along the motorway.

Is it legal to use access roads at motorway service stations?

It is often the case that the access roads between service station and the non-motorway network are on private property, so drivers using them could be charged with the civil offence of trespass by the owner of the land.

However, police could also issue penalties for ignoring official signage, such as no entry signs and the like.

Owners of motorway service stations must also control access to and from the motorway network, as described in this freedom of information request, which is from 2014: See the original question to the Highways Agency (now National Highways).

Motorway Service Operators are obliged to enter into sealed agreements with the Secretary of State in order to have signed access to the motorway network. These include a number of mandatory provisions. Amongst these are the requirement that use of the rear accesses to their sites must be confined to authorised vehicles only. This is necessary in order to prevent the service areas from becoming informal motorway junctions (with consequent disruption to the lives of those living and working on the approach roads) and to ensure the safety of legitimate users of the sites, especially pedestrians, who could be exposed to danger from through traffic travelling at speed.

Motorway Service Area accesses are private means of access not a public rights of way and must be controlled to restrict unauthorised access. As such the use of the rear access could be considered as trespass and public use of the access without prior agreement would be prohibited. 

As a result, unless you have express permission to use one of these roads, you should not attempt to use them leave or join the motorway network.

Do service station hotels have secret exits off the motorway?

Most hotels located on motorways will have access roads to the non-motorway network. For example, Clacket Lane Services on the M25 has a hotel that is on the westbound side, but as there is no junction, those on the eastbound may be possible to leave the motorway from within the services and cross the motorway on a local road next to the facility.

As hotels seem unwilling to promote such method, you will need to speak to the hotel to confirm any such arrangement exists at the likes of Clacket Lane and other such service areas.

It is typically okay to use these ‘entries’ and ‘exits’ to and from the motorway with permission from the hotel in question. You may have to contact the hotel via an intercom if the exit is protected by a barrier. Always check with the hotel first.

Subscribe for free motoring and travel news here - support independent journalism 

* indicates required

How to check the layout of motorway service stations on motorways

Motorway service stations will be covered by Google maps, so open maps, type in the name of the services and zoom in on the layout.

You will be able to see roads connecting the service station with local streets and then, if there is coverage, you can bring up Streetview to read signage to see if there are restrictions. However, remember these may be out of date and should not be relied on.

Always adhere to local restrictions and local signage if attempting to use these roads.

Do motorists use these roads to avoid traffic delays on motorways?

At service stations where access is left open it will likely be the case that some motorists will use the access roads to get on or off the motorway network.

Are there other ‘secret’ exit roads?

Yes. Along with the rear access roads found at service stations, there are many tiny exits that are used by the likes of emergency services. Using these is illegal and dangerous.

facebook sharing button Share
twitter sharing button Tweet
pinterest sharing button Pin
email sharing button Email
sms sharing button Share
sharethis sharing button Share


Latest motoring news and guides

Take a look at more of our top motoring-related content here...


Subscribe for free motoring and travel news from

* indicates required

Author: Pete Barden:

Twitter: @pete_barden

Pete Barden is a qualified journalist who has written and produced for publications including The Sun (, New Statesman Media Group, Whatcar? ( Stuff Magazine (, Fastcar Magazine (, Maxim Magazine and UK broadcast stations within the Heart network (Formerly GCAP). Pete specialises in motoring and travel content, along with news and production roles. You can find out more about Pete Barden on LinkedIn.

See our privacy page here