ANY new trans-Pennine road linking East Lancashire with Yorkshire should not be called ‘the M65 extension’, county councillors have been told.

A transport boss has told them such a title would be misleading as it would not reflect any route which a new highway might follow.

In March the Lancashire Telegraph exclusively revealed Transport Secretary Chris Grayling had ordered a new study into building a Colne bypass and improving trans-Pennine road links beyond it.

The £300,000 research project is being conducted by Highways England and regional strategic body Transport for the North (TfN).

It is looking at how to deal with traffic coming off the M65 into Colne, the cost of a new town bypass and how to take that traffic into Yorkshire.

For the first time it is examining not just using the A56 to Skipton but looking at the A6068 Crosshills Road to Keighley as an option for an improved trans-Pennine link.

TfN project manager Owen Wilson told Lancashire County Council’s external scrutiny committee the overall aim of the project is to create a better link between M6 in Central Lancashire with the A1(M) in West and North Yorkshire.

He said: “The A59 is a potential route: you could come off the M65 before the end and cross to join the A1 east of Harrogate. There’s also potential to improve links down towards Bradford and Leeds.

“The first piece of work we’ve done has demonstrated there is certainly potential and a good case for investment in improving the highway connections. But it shouldn’t be called the M65 extension and TfN would like to see the name changed.”

The proposed project is one of the long-term ambitions laid out in TfN’s transport plan published last year. Building a new route would take more than a decade.

Nelson East’s Cllr Azhar Ali said extending the M65 east from its current end in Colne was ‘a red herring’.

He said: “No way would you ever get the M65 through the middle of Colne to the other side of Cross Hills – that won’t work but an A59 bypass ending up the other side of Thornton-in-Craven would work.

“The only thing that rings alarm bells is whether any new route would have the capacity to pick up additional HGVs. If you’re a lorry driver coming up the M6, why would you want to go all the way round the M62 to Yorkshire when you could just come along the M65?”

The study is due to report in the autumn, but Mr Wilson said the “complexity” of the assessment means it is unlikely to be completed until 2020.