Snake Pass closed: Sheffield landslide expert says A57's problems are 'likely to get worse'

An expert has warned Snake Pass is ‘likely’ to suffer more landslides and closures than ever in years to come.

Tuesday, 1st March 2022, 1:27 pm

It is expected the winding single lane road will be close for at least another three weeks for repairs.

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The A57 Snake Pass will be shut for at least the next three weeks while Derbyshire County Council repair the damage from three landslides that were triggered during last week's storms.

Snake Pass users know the route is no stranger to problematic closures. On average, the road is shut 70 days a year due to harsh winter conditions. It is one of the most accident prone routes in the region, but is frequently held up as one of the best drives in the country.

However, a University of Sheffield researcher and geomorphology expert says the road’s problems are only going to get worse.

Pro-vice-chancellor Dave Petley tracks landslides across the world on his personal page ‘The Landslide Blog’. He writes that heavy rain and climate change will make landslips and closures more frequent going forward.

“Unfortunately, this situation is likely to get worse in the coming decades,” wrote Professor Petley in a blog post on February 24.

“Upgrading the road is difficult in a national park. Unfortunately, users of the Snake Pass are likely to face many more road closures in the years to come.”

Professor Petley comments that only one of the three recent landslides is on previously undisturbed ground, while the other two are “reactivated” areas of movement.

“Two are previous sites of movement, but the third appears to be new but substantial,” he writes. “The road has reportedly dropped by two metres. Movement is reported to be continuing. The road has been closed, and reports suggest that repairs will take at least a month.

“Most of these landslides are ancient, pre-dating the road by centuries. However, climate change has meant that rainfall intensities are increasing, especially in the series of low pressure systems that frequently occur. It is these rainfall events that are causing the problems.”

Meanwhile, Simon Warren, author of the 100 climbs blog and the Greatest Cycling Climbs book, claimed on Twitter that Snake Pass now “belongs to the cyclist" for the next month while cars are banned.

The author, who lives in the region, wrote in a tweet: “The Snake Pass is closed to traffic, will be for ages. Went over to Glossop and back this morning. Bloody awesome. It now belongs to cyclists. Get out there before it opens again."

Derbyshire County Council’s cabinet member for Highways Kewal Singh Athwal said it is not known how long it will take for the ground to stabilise, at which point more assessments will be carried out.

“I know this will be a huge inconvenience to everyone who uses the A57 regularly.

"However, with the ground underneath the road surface expected to continue to move, in the interests of everyone’s safety we simply cannot allow traffic to use the road.

“Once the land movement has stopped we will assess what needs doing to repair the sections of road. However, once in a position to do this it will be a complicated piece of work.

“I’d like to thank everyone for their patience as we deal with the aftermath of this unprecedented weather which has affected not only Derbyshire but much of the country.”