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Aire & Calder Navigation

 The main line of the Aire & Calder Navigation runs from Leeds to Goole, joining the Wakefield Branch and the navigable section of the River Aire.

Map showing the Aire & Calder Navigation and surrounding waterways

Facts & Stats

34 miles

(54.4 km)

The length of the Aire & Calder Navigation that is navigable.

11 locks

Main line

The navigations main line from Leeds to Goole contains 11 locks

2 million

Over 2 million tons of freight are carried on the Aire & Calder every year.  Mainly oil, sand and gravel.

Leeds to Goole

The navigation joins the Leeds & Liverpool Canal  and the Yorkshire Ouse, with the Wakefield Branch joining at Castleford Junction. The River Aire leaves the navigation at Bank Dole Junction to join the Selby Canal at Haddlesey. The New Junction Canal (part of the Sheffield and South Yorkshire Navigation) joins the Navigation at Southfield Junction, 2 miles (3.2 km) downstream of Pollington. 

The navigation remains an active commercial waterway today, carrying coal, oil, gravel and sand.

[The photo shows the redeveloped Clarence Dock in Leeds]

The unique Barge Lift at Ferrybridge Power Station

It was announced in October 1964 that at Ferrybridge “C” Power Station a coal discharging installation was to be built to raise and tipple 210 ton barges in nine minutes. Coal would be delivered in trains of three 210 ton capacity compartment boats, propelled by a powerful tug. The system was designed by Strachan and Henshaw Ltd, of Bristol. On arrival at Ferrybridge, the barge trains were to be led into a channel approaching the unloader. At this stage they were to be taken in hand by a marshalling system and the tug moved away downstream to collect waiting empty trains. The barge tippler was a large unloading hoist which was to raise the boats forty feet above water level, discharging the coal into an elevated receiving hopper which feeds the conveyer system, leading to the power station. By this means, a planned unloading rate of 1,000 tons per hour was to be achieved. The manufacturers claimed that this system of water-borne transportation and handling could make a considerable contribution to industrial efficiency. The use of a tippler enabled barge carriage to compete favourably with, and be independent of, all other forms of transport, wherever there is reasonable water access from the supplier to the customer.

Apparently, after much research had been undertaken into the Ferrybridge installation, the Railway Board attempted to make out a case for delivery of coal to the power station by rail. Fortunately, the Electrical Authority were convinced of the striking superiority of the barge system, which was able to go ahead as planned.

[The photo shows the Barge Lift with waiting boats below, in 1971  –  by John Gagg]

Waterway notes

Maximum boat sizes

  • Length: 200′ 2″ (61.0 metres) – Castleford Lock
  • Beam: 18′ 1″ (5.5 metres) – Leeds Lock
  • Height: 11′ 10″ (3.6 metres) – Heck Road Bridge
  • Draught: 8′ 9″ (2.68 metres) – cill of Leeds Lock

Navigation authority

Waterway underfunding

Hundreds of miles of waterways – along with their unique heritage and habitats – are currently starved of funding and rely on constant lobbying by us to safeguard their future.

Sustainable Boating

We want boating on canals and rivers to be more sustainable and – even though the current overall contribution to UK carbon emissions is very small – we want to help reduce emissions on the waterways.

Waterways Heritage at Risk

Britain’s canals and rivers are a unique, living heritage. But that heritage is at risk – from urban development, lack of protection, loss of skills and knowledge and climate change.

You can help Save Waterways Heritage.

Waterway restoration

Restoring the UK’s blue infrastructure – our inherited network of navigable canals and rivers – is good for people and places.