By Simon O'Hare
A new pub being opened off the M40 by JD Wetherspoon has been given the go-ahead in spite of public opposition, road safety campaigners claim.
It is the first pub to be opened at a motorway service area and it will sell real ale from local and regional brewers plus non-alcoholic and hot drinks.
The Hope And Champion will be open from 4am to 1am every day in the Extra Motorway Service Area at junction 2 of the M40 in Buckinghamshire.
JD Wetherspoon has invested over £1.1 million in the new pub.
Only 12% of people support new M40 pub
However, the RAC revealed results of a survey that found just 12 per cent of people support the opening of pubs at motorway service stations.
Approximately two-thirds of the 2,000 respondents said they do not agree with the idea, with older drivers more likely to oppose the sale of alcohol at motorway service areas.
Among over-55s, around 71 per cent voiced their opposition while 8 per cent were in favour of service station pubs.
There was less opposition among younger age groups, though, with almost one in five of those aged between 18 and 34 voicing their support.
A quarter of people undecided on new M40 pub
Across the survey as a whole, around one in four people admitted they are undecided on the issue.
"The public appear to be very much against the introduction of motorway pubs," said Pete Williams, head of external affairs at the RAC.
"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?"
'Drivers could be tempted to drink alcohol'
Providing easier access to alcohol will only make it more tempting for drivers to have a drink, he suggested.
"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."
Sir Ian Gilmore, chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance, said he is "disappointed by the decision to open a JD Wetherspoon on the M40".
He added: "We are trying to prevent harm from alcohol-related traffic accidents and this sends out completely the wrong message.
Call for review of licensing laws
"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.
"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."