The driver and his passenger were forced to pull onto the hard shoulder of the M6 near Wigan after the red and black cornsake revealed itself

This is the three foot snake which crawled across a van driver's dashboard as he drove at 60mph on a motorway at night.

A horrified front seat passenger sparked a 999 alert after he watched the snake slither inches above the driver's hands on the steering wheel.

The passenger phoned police and yelled: "Pull over - now."

Amazingly, the unnamed driver in his fifties, did not see the snake until he stopped on the hard shoulder of the M6 motorway near Wigan at 2am.

The two men fled the white box van until police officers arrived at the scene with two motorway traffic officers and an RSPCA inspector.

The snake had been loose in the hired van throughout their 200-mile trip from South Wales.

Mirror reader Peter Ramejkis, 62, a Highways Agency motorway traffic officers called to the scene, said yesterday: "When we arrived I walked over to the men and said: 'What's the matter'.

"The passenger - who was in his thirties - pulled out his mobile phone and said 'that's the matter' and showed me a photograph of a snake.

"He said: 'I suddenly saw it crawling across the dashboard'.

"I asked where it was now and he said it had crawled through an air vent into the engine.

"The two men wouldn't get back in the van because they didn't know where the snake had gone.

"We turned on the heater to try to flush it out but that didn't work and then the police arrived but couldn't open the bonnet.

"We tried everything to get it out.

"Everyone was becoming a bit skeptical but when the bonnet finally opened we saw the snake curled around one of the engine parts.

"I don't like snakes but this one was quite nice - it was red and black and turned out to be a non venomous American cornsnake.

"The woman from the RSPCA was very brave - she didn't have gloves on put pulled down her sleeve and grabbed it.

"The snake was pulling one way and she was pulling the other - then it wrapped itself around her arm.

"I can't understand how somebody could lose a snake in a van.

"I can only imagine the previous people to hire the van may have been transporting the snake and it got out - maybe they decided not to say anything to the hire company."

The two men are thought to have hired the van in Cardiff or Swansea and were travelling to Scotland to deliver some furniture to the driver's son.

RSPCA inspector Louise Showering,36, who rescued the snake, said: "I was asleep at 1.55am when a call came in to say a chap wouldn't get back in his van because of a snake - and was marooned on the M6.

"When I arrived at the scene there were blue flashing police lights and initially we couldn't find the snake.

"Then I reached into the engine and unraveled him.

"I'm not that brave really - the passenger had already showed me a picture of the snake he took on his iphone and I was pretty sure it was a cornsnake.

"He was quite a friendly adult male.

"We checked him over and he was fine. No-one claimed him so he has now been adopted by a man who keeps other snakes."

Cornsnakes grow up to six feet long and can live for 20 years in captivity. They are non venomous, eat mice and climb trees to feed on unguarded bird's eggs.