A YORK coach driver told today how he has experienced numerous "near- misses" at North Yorkshire's worst accident blackspot, Bilbrough Top.

Paul Stickney said the most recent happened in August, when he almost had to come to a complete stop on the A64 dual carriageway after a car cut across his path.

He warned that until a gap was closed in the central reservation at the junction, an accident could happen in which up to 53 people could die.

Mr Stickney contacted the Evening Press after reading an article about Jeff Franks, the coach driver whose vehicle collided with a car coming out of the gap last autumn, killing a 19-year-old student.

Mr Franks said he had suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder since the accident, forcing him to give up the career he loved.

"No one would wish what has happened to Mr Franks on anyone," said Mr Stickney, of Acomb.

"Without sounding cold-hearted, I am glad it wasn't me, although not too long ago it very nearly was."

He said he worked for a large coach company serving the York and Harrogate areas. "In the times that I have driven along the A64 blackspot, I can say that I have had numerous 'near- misses', where people have crossed my path to go across the carriageway, or to make a complete U-turn.

"It is frightening when you think that somebody not waiting can result in the deaths of up to 53 people, be it adults or children.

"It sounds scary when put like that, but it nearly happened as recently as August when I was carrying a group on a day tour and suddenly had to almost completely stop when a car came across the carriageway without a care in the world for his life, or those I was carrying on board."

He said he could not understand why the Highways Agency had not simply closed the gap, as motorists would only have to travel a few miles east or west to get to a flyover to cross the dual carriageway.

The agency has always refused to close the gap until work starts on building a flyover, saying it must weigh up the safety benefits of immediate closure against the social and commercial disadvantages to residents and businesses.

Flyover construction was due to begin in June but was delayed after the bill was discovered to be much higher than expected. The Government is currently deciding whether or not to approve the scheme at the higher costs.

Updated: 11:47 Friday, October 24, 2003