Serious crash on Snake Pass sparks safety warning after worried witnesses cannot call for help due to lack of phone service

It is one of the busiest links between Sheffield and Manchester.

Friday, 20th August 2021, 5:29 pm

And it has one of the highest accident rates in the region.

But if you have an emergency, users of that stretch of the Snake Pass have been warned that their mobile phones will be useless.

A motorist has revealed how worried drivers this week found themselves unable to contact emergency services after two bikers were seriously injured in a collision at the top of the road, which dates back 200 years.

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16 Jan 2017.........Wintery conditions in the Peak District made for difficult driving conditions on the A57 which wsa closed at Snake Pass. Picture Scott Merrylees

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Trans-Pennine tunnel plan between Sheffield and Manchester 'should be dropped'

And this comes at a time when Northern transport experts say investment is needed to improve ‘below par’ transport links between Sheffield and Manchester.

Edd Payling was one of the first on the scene after two motorcyclists were seriously injured near the summit of the pass, close to where it crosses the Pennine Way, on Saturday August 14

He and his wife were sent to call for help after all those who had stopped to try to help the stricken bikers found themselves unable to get a signal to call the emergency services.

Henri Murison Director-Northern Powerhouse Partnership. Picture Jonathan Gawthorpe 3rd October 2019.

The couple set off – but they were unable to get a signal on his phone until he was just yards from Glossop, at the end of the pass.

He came across the crash scene after the couple had been out walking in the Peak District along the Pennine Way.

He found a group of worried motorists already trying to call 999.

"There were people running round stopping traffic,” he said. “I could see the accident just over the brow of the hill. The phones said ‘emergency services only’, but none of them could get through. It was not just a case of a problem with one phone network, between us we must have had them all.”

9 Jan 2015...Snake Pass in the High Peak (for archive). Picture Scott Merrylees

Edd was sent to get help because his car was parked in a way that allowed him to drive off easily.

"We could see panic in the faces of those who had witnessed the crash. People were visibly shaken.” he said. “We said we’d go for help. But we couldn’t get a signal until we were virtually in Glossop. What ‘emergency only’ means when it comes up on the phone screen, I don’t know. We certainly couldn’t get through, and it was certainly an emergency.”

"People are potentially wasting valuable time that could be the difference between life and death in a serious accident, because there is now phone signal.”

An air ambulance was eventually sent to help the motorcyclists. Police later said both riders suffered serious, but not life threatening, injuries.

Edd Payling pictured near the top of the Snake Pass on his walk before he doscovered a crash

The A57 Snake Pass is one of the main roads linking Sheffield and Manchester, carrying large volumes of traffic every day.

Figures from the Department of Transport last year showed the A57 was the most dangerous road in the High Peak, the area where most of its length runs – with 137 accidents between 2014 and 2018.

The stretch of road was ranked as having the highest number of road accidents causing casualties in the whole of the High Peak borough of Derbyshire during the four-year period.

Gareth Elliott, head of policy and communications at Mobile UK, the trade association for the UK's mobile network operators, said: “The mobile industry is investing heavily in its networks to reduce partial and not-spots throughout the country.

"Through the Shared Rural Network, a joint initiative between the industry and the UK Government, reliable 4G mobile coverage will be extended to 95 per cent of the UK’s landmass. At the same time, the industry is rolling out 5G and continues to extend and enhance its existing networks.”

Neither Derbyshire Police nor Derbyshire County Council wanted to comment.

Henri Murison, director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership is among those who believe the links between Sheffield and Manchester need improving, including the road link which sometimes closes because of snow in winter.

He said this week: “Poor rail connectivity between Sheffield, Manchester and Leeds has held back all three of these ambitious cities for decades. Many people are forced to drive on congested roads rather than face the slow, not adequately frequent and too often unreliable train services.”

He said planned road improvements to the wider route between Sheffield and Manchester, including the Mottram Bypass, were a good start, but would not be a substitution for further improvements to transport links between the two cities.

The idea of a 25-mile Trans-Pennine Tunnel between Manchester and Sheffield was unveiled in 2016. But earlier this year Transport for the North argued the £12bn ambitious plans for a dual carriageway should be dropped.

A spokesman said further assessments/studies are ongoing into single bore or shorter tunnel options.

They added: “As is the case throughout our region, east-west connectivity over the Pennines is notoriously below par and in urgent need of investment.

“Snake Pass and Woodhead Pass, while offering beautiful views, are simply not practical for modern needs, so it’s essential that anyone travelling across the Pennines has a number of high-standard and reliable choices. This includes rail as well as road.

“Transport for the North has worked with Government and Highways England in considering a number of options for new and improved trans-Pennine roads. As discussed at our January 2021 Board meeting, there are significant challenges to delivering a full dual carriageway trans-Pennine route.

"However, we strongly believe that improving east-west routes linking Sheffield City Region and Greater Manchester will support the national levelling up agenda and bring considerable benefits for people and businesses.”

A Department for Transport spokesman said: “The Trans-Pennine Tunnel study remains in early development and no decisions have been made about the next steps.”

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a digital subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Nancy Fielder, editor.