THE Canal and River Trust is appealing to drivers to take greater care when crossing its bridges after revealing it spends around £1m every year carrying out repairs.

Its Priest Holme canal bridge, between Gargrave and Bank Newton, was badly damaged a year ago when it was hit by a vehicle negotiating the tight bend. At the time, it was waiting to be repaired after being similarly damaged about a year earlier.

The charity says it plans to repair the grade two listed bridge this year, sometime between April and October, at a cost of around £25,000.

Among its 2,000 mile network of canals and rivers, including 316 miles in Yorkshire and the North East, the charity looks after 2,800 old bridges. It says the 'hump-back' canal bridges were built 200 years ago when horse-drawn carts, and not motorised vehicles were using the roads.

It says modern vehicles and HGVs cause up to £1m of damage to bridges each year, and the majority are ‘hit and run’, leaving the trust unable to recoup the cost of the damage from drivers’ insurers, and diverting vital funds away from work to conserve the nation’s waterways.

Sean McGinley, director of Canal and River Trust Yorkshire and North East, said: “Priest Holme Bridge has been damaged several times over the years by vehicles mis-judging the road.

"Not only are these bridge strikes inconveniencing other motorists and the local community, they damaging the region’s waterways heritage and costly to repair. Each time our charity is left to pick up the bill, which is usually in the region of £25,000 to repair. We are working closely with North Yorkshire County Council’s highways department on this issue to find a way to resolve this ongoing issue.

“The region’s waterways are wonderful for people to use and enjoy but they are costly to protect and preserve. It is important we have funds available to carry out such works to keep the canals flowing – for example the conservation work we are currently undertaking at nearby Eshton Road Lock as well as Bingley Five Rise Locks.”

Ruth Garratt, heritage advisor at Canal and River Trust, said: “Bridges are such an important part of the canal’s character and the area’s heritage. Each time a bridge is hit a small bit of history is lost.

“If motorists just slowed down a bit and paid more attention, they would save a lot of cost and aggravation. It’s important that people respect the weight limit of the bridge and, if they exceed it, then we’d ask them to please find an alternative route.”

For more information on the work of the Canal & River Trust including how to volunteer or donate visit