The go-ahead for a flyover at Bilbrough Top marks the final victory for the Evening Press Close the Gaps campaign, as Mike Laycock reports.

So it's finally going to happen. That notorious central reservation gap on the A64 between York and Tadcaster will close at last in January, when work starts on building a flyover. And the Evening Press campaign, along with the personal pleas of a couple who lost their son at Bilbrough Top, has played its part in ensuring the scheme goes ahead.

But it is tragic that it didn't happen long before now.

The Evening Press presented a former Roads Minister with a petition calling for immediate closure of the gap in December 1999, saying that safety problems outweighed any inconvenience for local motorists.

We said drivers could go along the A64 and use existing flyovers at York and Tadcaster to cross the dual carriageway, and we carried the warnings of motorists, emergency services and other experts that failure to shut it then could result in deaths and injuries.

But the Highways Agency refused to shut the gap until it could start work on building a flyover at Bilbrough Top, saying it had to balance road safety issues against the impact of gap closure on local residents and businesses.

In the years since then, our predictions have come horribly true, to the extent that this location became North Yorkshire's worst accident blackspot over the three years from January 2000 to December 2002.

Two people, 19-year-old student Rachelle Ansell and Christine Old, from Goole, died after their cars passed through the gap and were struck by vehicles coming along the A64.

Sixteen-year-old Jamie Sanders, from Northallerton, also died after being struck by a car as he ran across the A64 to get a bus back to York from his workplace at Bilbrough Top. Without a flyover, there was no other way for him to get across the dual carriageway.

After a public inquiry, a flyover scheme was approved at an estimated cost of £4.5 million, and work was finally due to start in June, allowing the gap to be shut.

But then the project was halted at the last minute because costs were higher than had been budgeted for by the Highways Agency.

It was thought then that the final bill would be £2 million more than originally expected. But it emerged today that it had, in fact, more than doubled to a staggering £11 million.

It is clear that with that sort of money involved, Roads Minister David Jamieson had to be absolutely certain that it still represented value for money and could be justified.

It was also important he was made fully aware of North Yorkshire's viewpoint, that this junction was a menace which had to be tamed before anyone else died.

That is why the Evening Press made one final push in its Close the Gaps campaign, with the backing of Selby MP John Grogan. But the credit should also go to Colin and Chris Sanders, the parents of Jamie Sanders, who courageously went to London to tell the minister their tragic story in the hope that other parents would never go through the trauma they have endured.

Updated: 11:26 Wednesday, October 29, 2003