In Depth

Britain's first motorway pub slammed as 'deadly temptation'

Hope and Champion will serve alcohol from 9am, but Wetherspoon expects drivers to 'act responsibly'

WITH an estimated 18 pubs closing each week in Britain, one would have thought the opening of a new one would be greeted with applause - further evidence, perhaps, that Britain is getting back on its feet. 

But when the Hope and Champion opened its doors today it was to a chorus of criticism from safety campaigners, the medical profession and motoring organisations.

The reason? Its location, off Junction 2 of the M40, near Beaconsfield in Buckinghamshire, makes the Hope and Champion the first pub at a British motorway service station.

The pub, which cost more than £1m, will be open from 4am to 1am, seven days a week, serving wine, spirits and local ales, as well as non-alcoholic drinks.

The fact that it has a licence to sell alcohol from 9am has horrified the RAC with Pete Williams, the group's head of external affairs, telling The Times: "In our view this is a risky and frankly unnecessary move. The question we are struggling to answer is this: of all the places to open a pub, why choose a motorway service station?"

Williams pointed out "alcohol is already available in shops at motorway services" and said the pub opening was nonsensical.

A survey of 20,000 people conducted on behalf of the RAC found that only 12 per cent of the public supported motorway pubs, with nearly two-thirds strongly against the innovation.

Sir Ian Gilmore, a special adviser on alcohol to the Royal College of Physicians, was similarly concerned, saying: "We are trying to prevent harm from alcohol-related traffic accidents and this sends out completely the wrong message."

The pub's owner, the Wetherspoon group, rejected the concerns, however. Its chairman Tim Martin predicted there was "minimal chance" that service station pubs would lead to an increase in drink-driving. Rather, the Hope and Champion expects most of its custom to come from coach parties and vehicle passengers.

"We do not live in a nanny state," a spokesman said. "We expect drivers to act responsibly."

In addition, the chain says up to 120 new jobs will be created from the pub's opening.

But Ellie Pearson from the safety campaign group, Brake, said a motorway service station pub would be a "deadly temptation" to drivers. She went on: "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."

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