SCHOOLCHILDREN in Newport are risking their lives by taking a dangerous shortcut across a busy new road.

Up to 1,200 pupils from Lliswerry High School cross the Southern Distributor Road every day.

Headteacher John Rawlings and ward councillors say they are horrified to see youngsters ignoring safety barriers and a nearby footbridge.

And they have called for an immediate rethink of the crossing arrangements near the school and Nash college.

Councillors Alan Morris, Roger Jeavons and Ken Critchley and Mr Rawlings met recently with representatives of SDR builders Morgan Vinci to look at crossing arrangements.

Mr Rawlings said: "Any changes which make the road safer would be a small price to pay in relation to a child's life or serious injury."

Councillor Morris said he was "horrified" as he watched children running across the road.

He said: "As a former fire officer I have experienced many fatalities and serious injuries in road traffic accidents that could have been avoided. It is far easier for parents to encourage their children to stay safe than it is to visit them in hospital or worse."

Councillor Jeavons, who is also a school governor, said: "It is only a matter of time before a tragedy occurs. At the moment it is not a matter of If but When?"

Councillor Critchley said they were seeking an urgent meeting with representatives of the city council highways department and representatives of the road constructors to find an engineering solution to the problem but would also look at all other alternatives, including crossing patrols if necessary.

SDR manager Peter Frood said: "From our point of view everything that should be there - barriers and a footbridge - is in place but when we visited the area the children just ignored them.

"At the moment, one of the lanes is coned off. We hope that when the road becomes dual carriageway it will deter the children from crossing both lanes."