A new pub being opened at a motorway service station today was “at odds” with public opinion which was firmly against the move, according to road safety campaigners.
Pub chain JD Wetherspoon said its Hope And Champion will be open from 4am to 1am, seven days a week, in the Extra Motorway Service Area at junction 2 of the M40 in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire.
The company has spent more than £1.1 million on the pub - the first to be opened at a motorway service area - which will sell real ale from local and regional brewers as well as non-alcoholic and hot drinks.
The RAC said a survey of 2,000 people showed that only 12 per cent supported putting pubs into motorway service stations.
Around two-thirds said they did not agree with the move, with older drivers more likely to oppose the sale of alcohol at motorway service areas.
Only 8 per cent of over-55s were in favour, with 71 per cent against, while almost one in five of those aged between 18 and 34 were in support.
Around one in four of everyone questioned were undecided on the issue.
The RAC’s head of external affairs Pete Williams said: “The public appear to be very much against the introduction of motorway pubs.
“We appreciate the vast majority of motorists drive responsibly and that alcohol is already available in shops at motorway services, but for many this decision seems to be at odds with common sense. In our view this is a risky and frankly unnecessary move.
“The question we are struggling to answer is - of all the places to open a pub, why choose a motorway service station?
“The temptation to drink and drive can only be increased by easier access to alcohol. We therefore urge JD Wetherspoon to do all they can to convey the anti-drink-driving message as strongly as possible at this particular pub.”
Steve Baldwin, manager of the new pub, said: “The Extra Motorway Service Area, now including The Hope and Champion, primarily serves the motorway users, but its facilities are also available to the surrounding community from the local road network.”
Sir Ian Gilmore, Royal College of Physicians special adviser on alcohol and chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance, said: “I am disappointed by the decision to open a JD Wetherspoon on the M40. We are trying to prevent harm from alcohol-related traffic accidents and this sends out completely the wrong message.
“The appearance of bars on our motorway network adds greater urgency to the Alcohol Health Alliance’s call for a fundamental review of licensing laws, focusing on the availability of alcohol and reducing alcohol-related harm.
“Public health should be a core licensing objective, and the impact on the health of local people must be a key consideration.”
Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “Last year it was revealed that the number of drink-drive deaths had risen by a quarter to 290. Given this background, does opening a pub at a motorway service station send the right message?
“The majority of motorists are sensible and safe but people would be forgiven for thinking the official line from ministers is now take a break and have a pint.”
Ellie Pearson of safety campaign group Brake, said: “The opening of a pub on a motorway is deeply concerning, and presents a potentially deadly temptation to drivers.
“Drink driving remains one of the biggest killers on our road, causing devastation to families and communities every day.
“It is vitally important that messages about the dangers of drink driving are as strong and clear as possible, so drivers know it’s not okay to have even a single drink ahead of getting behind the wheel.
“Our advice to drivers is not to have even a drop of alcohol if you are driving.”