One of the last private toll bridges left in the country is being closed for six months for desperately needed maintenance, leaving drivers in North Yorkshire with a 25 mile detour.

The historic bridge over the River Ure at Aldwark, near Easingwold, is used by dozens of drivers a day, many of them going to a nearby primary school.

Tolls are 40p for motorbikes and cars - a bid last year to increase the charges to 50p for bikes and 80p for cars was rejected by traffic commissioners.

The owners, Aldwark Toll Bridge LLP, have now revealed the bridge will be closed from April 17 to the end of October.

In a message to users they said: “The bridge was purchased in August 2020 and we have been assessing what improvements need to be made to maintain and improve the service offered.

“The bridge has suffered from a lack of investment, and a professional survey carried out by a firm of specialist bridge surveyors has highlighted the works that need to be done. The works include repairing the archways, painting the bridge and repairing or even replacing the entirety of the deck. The works are essential to prevent further decay which would result in the bridge having to close for a lengthy period.

“It is our intention to try and improve the traffic flow and reduce congestion on the bridge approaches, which is very narrow, by introducing a form of automation. We are currently in discussions with traffic consultants to investigate whether it is feasible to introduce an intelligent traffic light system. This will prevent two cars having to squeeze past each other, making crossing the bridge safer and quicker.

“The current system is for regular users to purchase discounted tickets online, and we are currently in advanced discussions and are carrying out a feasibility study to see if the tickets can be replaced by a smart card, which will further improve the service offered.

“The bridge is your community asset, and whilst we are custodians of it, we have a duty to protect and to enhance it so that it can be used not only now, but also for future generations.

"It is our intention to reach out to the community and to protect what is your asset. The cost of what we have outlined runs into hundreds of thousands of pounds and, unfortunately, this has to be met by tolls which reflect the running costs and hence, after much consideration, we have applied for the toll increases.”

The bridge, which is Grade II listed, dates back to 1768 when the statute was issued to create it. It was extensively restored in the 1880s after the centre part of it washed away in a flood.