York's Millennium celebrations came to a late but great climax today when a £4.2 million new bridge across the Ouse was officially opened.

Hundreds of residents and cyclists gathered on the Millennium Bridge as the Lord Mayor, Councillor Shan Braund, cut a ribbon.

Then trumpeters played a fanfare, fireworks boomed and crackled across the sky and children from schools on either side of the river waved flags and exchanged huge greetings cards to commemorate new links between their communities.

Coun Braund said the bridge was a "magnificent structure and a wonderful, wonderful sight".

She thanked the Millennium Commission - who put more than £2 million of lottery money towards the project - and other donors including City of York Council, Persimmon Homes, Norwich Union, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and Shepherd Building Group, for turning the bridge idea into a reality. Thanks were also due to the York Millennium Bridge Trustees and to the community.

Sir Donald Barron, chairman of the Trust, said: "It's an occasion for great celebration and a very important date in York's long history."

The crossing - the first to be built in the city centre in more than a century - was delayed by a series of problems, in particular the record floods of last November.

Now it will provide a crossing between east and west York, with an estimated two million commuters, students and schoolchildren using it every year to get to work, college and school.

The crossing will also create a vital link in the National Cycle Network.

Alison Sinclair, chairwoman of the Friends of Rowntree Park, said it would open up use of the park to people from the Fulford Road side.

Six-year-old Anna Atkinson-Smith, of Grayshon Drive, Acomb, was desperate to be one of the first to cross the bridge after watching the progress of building work during a weekly visit with her grandfather Don. Her wish came true as she and her grandparents joined the opening ceremony.

Updated: 14:59 Tuesday, April 10, 2001