Road safety campaigners have criticised Wetherspoon’s after it opened the first pub at an English motorway service station yesterday.

The Hope and Champion is at the services next to junction two of the M40 near Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, operating from 4am until 1am seven days a week, and is licensed from 9am.

Opponents claim the pub will encourage drink driving. Ellie Pearson, a spokesperson for the road safety charity Brake, said: “The opening of a pub on a motorway is deeply concerning, as it 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. Research clearly shows that even small amounts of alcohol can be lethal if you’re driving, so our advice to drivers is simple: never drink any alcohol if you’re driving – not a drop.”

The RAC said putting a pub on a motorway was a ‘risky and frankly unnecessary move’, adding it was ‘at odds’ with public opinion.

It said a survey of 2,000 people showed that only 12% supported putting pubs into motorway service stations.

“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,” said RAC head of external affairs Pete Williams.

“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.”

A Wetherspoon’s spokesman said it expected most of the sales for alcoholic drinks to come from passengers or those in organised coach parties, and it expected drivers to act responsibly.

He said it was taking steps to promote sensible behaviour, such as including the national Drink Drive Awareness logos on its menus, and redesigning them to exclude any alcohol promotions. It will display additional drink drive awareness material around the premises, and has made soft drinks significantly cheaper than in its traditional pubs – and elsewhere in the service area.

JD Wetherspoon’s founder and chairman, Tim Martin, said: “Hopefully it will be the first of many Wetherspoon’s on the motorway.”