FRESH problems are dogging York's Millennium Bridge, with council chiefs admitting that they have no idea what is causing cracks on the walkway.

In the latest of a series of problems to hit the £4.2 million project, parts of the bridge have been fenced off because of continuing difficulties with the surface. It is, however, still possible to cross the bridge.

The bridge, which spans the River Ouse between Fulford and South Bank, was finally opened in April 2001 after a string of production and weather delays.

But within weeks, cracks started appearing in the pathway.

Now, more than a year after those problems first arose, City of York Council officials say they are frustrated that the fault has still not been pinpointed.

Recent repair work has failed to stop the cracks and the council said the issue is now in the hands of the bridge designers and consultants, Whitby Bird & Partners.

The London-based firm declined to comment when approached by the Evening Press.

Mike Tavener, the council's project manager for structures and drainage, said: "We have had some problems with the surfacing and can't find the solution.

"We understand that neither the designers or contractors are sure.

"The problem is in the hands of the designers. It has been ongoing for more than a year and we have been trying to resolve it."

Heavy flooding from the Ouse in 2000 severely delayed work on the bridge and it failed to open during the Millennium year as planned.

Mr Tavener said: "Everyone is frustrated. The number of people that use the bridge is phenomenal.

"It meets all the expectations. It is just this niggling problem with the surface.

"Repairs were carried out and they failed very quickly. The council wants to get this sorted out as quickly as possible."

Walkers and cyclists have been assured that the bridge is safe to use despite the surface cracks.

Mr Tavener said: "It is not a structural problem. The bridge is perfectly safe."

Paul Chesmore, former manager of the York Millennium Bridge Trust, which built the bridge for the city, said: "The surface used on the bridge is perfectly standard.

"I have seen it used on other bridges and it is fine. Why there should be a problem I simply don't know.

"Clearly it is not right. I would share the council's concern to put this right as soon as possible."

Updated: 11:59 Wednesday, May 22, 2002