Anticipation was written on the faces of Millennium Bridge watchers as they squinted in the autumn sun and waited...and waited...and waited for York's new superstructure to glide in to place.

The engineers never promised it would be a fast show, and even when - by mid-afternoon - the giant caterpillar cranes started to edge the bridge across the river on its floating pontoons it was a case of softly, softly catchee monkey.

But the atmosphere on both sides of the river was akin to a rather more rapid Space Shuttle launch, complete with mini grandstand for VIPs to witness the event from afar, and a hand-out entitled 'The Launch Sequence'.

Despite sighs and worries from the crowd such as, "Do you think we'll miss Coronation Street tonight?", it wasn't quite a case of 'Houston - We have a problem'. More a case of 'York - we have a bridge to get in place safely and securely', in the words of Millennium Trust manager Paul Chesmore.

The end of the animated part of the 'sequence' was over in under an hour, with the bridge at nightfall ending up tantalisingly near to its final resting place on a sliver of a pier sticking out of the South Bank.

By then people like York artist Brenda Tyler had packed up their easels and made their way home.

Brenda, who has been painting the bridge throughout its development, said: "I got there at 10am and drew a lot of pictures of the crowds and the bridge itself of course."

Officially, it took even the experts longer than they had expected, with minor hitches like snagging tow cables catching on underwater debris.

As dusk fell over the site Alan Jones, marketing manager of main contractors Spencer, said: "It's gone very well today, with no insurmountable snags, and it feels absolutely wonderful to be standing here watching the bridge most of the way over. But it has taken longer than we ex-pected.

"The view from the middle of the bridge in both directions is stunning - a very ru-ral river scene which will delight a lot of people."

Trust manager Paul Chesmore said: "We're not here as a form of entertainment. While we are delighted to see such interest from the crowds the main prior-ity is to get the bridge across the river as safely as possible. Everything else is sec-ondary."

The bridge was finally lowered on to the south bank pillar by 2am this morning.