Chris Fossey and colleagues in Warwickshire’s road safety team paid a visit to Britain’s first pub on a motorway service area – here’s what they found.
“M40 Beaconsfield Services – an ideal location for a ‘beery’ business lunch, stop off on the way to the match, or for folk who want a beer and a break from driving – thanks to a brand new Wetherspoons’ pub, the Hope and Champion, with a delightful range of real ales, spirits and wines.
“From a road safety perspective, this sounds like a recipe for disaster. Before our visit we had visions of two for one offers, a free pint with a meal, and other offers to lure the unsuspecting driver into a booze fuelled, drink drive frenzy.
“But the reality was altogether different.
“Think! Don’t Drink and Drive etched onto the windows, and a menu prominently reminding drivers that they ‘can’t calculate their alcohol limit: Don’t Drink and Drive’.
“The free pint with a meal offer, typical of Wetherspoons’ high street pubs, had been replaced with a free soft drink with every meal. The menu also contained a range of ‘mocktails’ to steer punters away from the booze.
“Alcohol-wise, beer, wine and spirits were all more expensive than a high street Wetherspoons, though still cheaper than most pubs: a pint of beer starting at £2.69 with premium lagers from £3.99.
“However, compare this to a 99p bottomless coffee and the temptation for most people will be cheap hot drinks – much cheaper, in fact, than the market leaders in this sector operating in the main food hall next door.
“So, with all these anti-alcohol measures, what was the impact on the customers?
“A brief unscientific lunchtime survey of the 40 or so customers revealed a couple with a pint and a half between them, and a table of businessmen each brandishing a pint. Hardly the booze-fuelled atmosphere we half-feared.
“Our overall impression is that the vast majority of drivers will not touch a drop of alcohol and will be happy to sip away at their coffee over a cheap lunch.
“Having said that, there is still quite a strong temptation for “under the limit drink driving”, whether attending a lunchtime business meeting or having a half over dinner.
“However, we believe that the vast majority of those taking advantage of the wide range of alcohol will be passengers, probably by the coach load.
“You can just imagine the rugby team enjoying a post match pint on the way home from the match, or stag and hen parties making a beeline for the services – a great place to get the Stag his first, or even tenth pint – on the way to the stag do.
“As road safety professionals, we cannot condone a driver having a pint and then hitting the motorway at 70mph. But unless or until there is a catastrophic event on the M40 which can be attributed to a “beering up” at the services, we’re sure that the ‘Hope and Champion’ will not be the UK’s first and last last motorway pub.”