Digging up the pavement to repair a gas leak used to force passing pedestrians to negotiate an obstacle course of barriers and metal plates to reach their destination. Road traffic would often be held up by the orange cones that protected them from the protruding safety barriers. All this changed when two Transco engineering technicians from Bradford suggested that a brightly painted board could be the answer to their problems. The highly visible panel cleverly hooks into the repair hole, allowing people to walk straight over it when it's not occupied, negating the need for cones and leaving traffic undisrupted. The idea, now patented, has resulted in greater safety, reduced inconvenience and annual cost savings of about pounds 500,000. It seems that short planks aren't that thick after all.