Monday 22nd November 2021
It certainly can’t be said Hulleys haven’t given it a good try. Introduced on 26th October 2020 the much welcomed Snake X57 branded bus route linking Sheffield and Manchester, via the scenic A57 Snake Pass, is now on its last knockings with a complete withdrawal planned after after 8th January.
It’s been quite a turbulent initial 13 months with a number of timetable changes reflecting early experience, trying out different route extension ideas to generate custom and coping with closed roads, roadworks, temporary traffic lights galore and the usual traffic delays west of Glossop.
As I wrote at the time, starting a brand new bus route of this kind as winter approached was certainly unconventional timing soon after kick off being faced with a short sharp lockdown last November followed by the more prolonged restrictions from Christmas 2020 through until Spring of this year could hardly have helped get the service off to a flying start.
However, as I noted back last October payment of the DfT’s Covid Bus Service Support Grant was obviously a bonus to keep the service going through those early months.
Very late evening journeys aimed at those enjoying Manchester’s late night economy didn’t last long and a major development in May this year saw the service extended to Manchester Airport which seemed another very brave decision. When I took a ride that month I found very few takers not only for the extension to the airport which was also very quiet, but on the original section of route, although the driver told me the service was proving very popular at weekends with walkers and stay-at-home tourists. I’m not surprised – it’s a beautiful route through some glorious walking country.
Plans were announced in September to extend the service yet again south to Macclesfield but in the event this idea was abandoned in the face of Hulleys experiencing a shortage of drivers. I think that was just as well.
The timetable was been tinkered with a few times including a small diversion off the M67 on the way into and out of Manchester to serve Hyde bus station and there’ve been reductions to the number of journeys in the early mornings as well as on Sundays.
I took a ride across from Sheffield to Manchester last Thursday to enjoy the scenery for one last time as I doubt there’ll be another service over the Snake Pass any time soon.
I caught the 11:25 from Sheffield Interchange noting that an incoming journey from Manchester was due in at 11:15. However a fresh bus was waiting to perform the 11:25 departure which was just as well as the 11:15 arrival only came in at 11:24 just as we were about to leave.
It dropped off six passengers before parking up.
We left with three on board in addition to myself and made slow progress as we headed to the Glossop Road via the Cathedral and West Street. This was a change to the route from when I last travelled and didn’t seem particularly quicker, in fact we lost eight minutes compared to the schedule but did pick up three more passengers and then another two as we reached Glossop Road although two got off, but we did pick four more up making for seven on board as we hit the Manchester Road only to lose two more.
So as we headed out of Sheffield towards Ladybower we had five on board three who’d boarded at the Interchange and two in Glossop Road who were travelling together.
We passed Ladybower Inn just four minutes down dropping a passenger off by the reservoir leaving four on board with myself all enjoying the autumn colours as the gorgeous scenery unfolded on our climb up to the Snake Pass.
We passed the old Inn still four minutes down and hit the top of the Pass surrounded by mist and low cloud as we began our descent into Glossop.
We’d made two minutes up as we reached Glossop market hall and lost one more passenger but gained three newcomers. We’d passed the other bus on the route which had left Manchester at 11:30 as we approached Glossop – it was running about ten minutes down with about half a dozen on board.
As we headed out of Glossop towards the M67 we passed the usual long slow moving queue of eastbound vehicles explaining why Sheffield bound buses were running later than schedule.
We came off the M67 to call into the nearby Hyde bus station dropping one of our Sheffield boarders off and were soon back on the motorway and not much later were heading west along the busy Hyde Road into central Manchester.
We passed by Manchester’s Piccadilly rail station just two minutes late.
Inexplicably our driver than did a tour taking us past Piccadilly Gardens …
… before retracing our route in again from the station meaning we reached the road alongside Chorlton Street Coach Station at 13:20, ten minutes after our scheduled 13:10 arrival and the two passengers from Sheffield and two from Glossop still on board alighted with me.
It would seem about half a dozen passengers is about the average supplemented by a handful of local riders at the Sheffield end of the route. Clearly that’s not enough to sustain the Snake X57 and sadly its demise is inevitable as it probably was from the start.
News of the route’s demise was posted on Hulleys Facebook page over the weekend with a refreshingly honest appraisal of the background to the upcoming withdrawal and rightly praising the staff who’ve worked hard to try and make it a success.
The comments under the posting from passengers expressing their sadness at hearing the news is testimony to the appreciation the service gained from those who used it. Sadly there just weren’t enough of them.
Well done to Hulleys for giving it a go. It’s a truly wonderful route and if you fancy a ride you’ve got just six weeks left to do so.
I used to run a bus company but in retirement enjoy Britain’s splendid scenic delights travelling by bus and train, and commenting along the way.