Hit and run bridge strikes are costing Canal and River Trust up to £1m a year

Drivers hitting bridges are costing the charity which runs the nation's 2,000-mile historic canal network up to £1m a year.

As well as looking after the waterways, the Canal and River Trust is also responsible for 2,800 hump-back bridges.

Built 200 years ago for the passage of horse-drawn carts, today’s modern vehicles and HGVs are proving a costly headache.

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The charity says the majority of the accidents are hit and run leaving them to pick up the tab for repairs - money which would otherwise go into conservation work.

The bridge was damaged in January Picture: Canal and River Trust

One bridge which has been frequently hit by drivers is Priest Holme Bridge on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal near Gargrave.

The Grade 11-listed bridge is due for repairs starting some time between April and October, which will take several weeks.

Sean McGinley, director of Canal & River Trust Yorkshire and North East, said they were working with North Yorkshire County Council’s highways department to find a solution to the problem. He said: “Priest Holme Bridge has been damaged several times over the years by vehicles misjudging 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.

Priest Holme Bridge on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal between Gargrave and Bank Newton Picture: Tim Green

"Each time our charity is left to pick up the bill, which is usually in the region of £25,000 to repair.

"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 & 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.”