NORTH Yorkshire's worst accident blackspot was finally tamed today.

The Highways Agency closed the notorious gap in the A64 central reservation at Bilbrough Top, in preparation for the construction of a flyover.

At a stroke, the journey along the dual carriageway between York and Tadcaster was made significantly safer.

The junction has been the scene of dozens of accidents in recent years - more than any other location in the county.

Many of the crashes involved vehicles passing through the gap and being struck by other vehicles coming along the dual carriageway.

Such accidents prompted the Evening Press to launch its 'Close the Gaps' campaign in the late 1990s, which finally resulted in the Government deciding this autumn to press ahead with an £11 million scheme for a new flyover to provide a safe crossing over the dual carriageway.

Selby District councillor Brian Percival, who lives nearby, said today that the gap should have been closed a long time ago.

Local people are being diverted to flyovers at York and Tadcaster to cross the A64, until the new flyover is completed in 2005.

Asked how residents had responded to the agency's actions, Coun Percival said 80 per cent had told him they were pleased that progress was being made. The other 20 per cent were people that would have to drive a little further because they could no longer get through the gap.

Sam Esler, former chairman of Bilbrough Parish Council, said he welcomed the closure of the gap.

He said: "I am very pleased it has been closed. It should have been closed years ago. If it had been, lives and limbs would have been saved."

He said opinion in the village was divided, with some residents very critical of his support for gap closure because of the inconvenience it might cause them, but he believed safety must come first and it only meant a few extra minutes' driving.

Updated: 10:49 Monday, December 22, 2003