How can road links between Lancashire and Yorkshire be improved?

Is an extension of the M65 a realistic option?
Is an extension of the M65 a realistic option?

A proposed “M65 extension” linking East Lancashire with Yorkshire should be renamed – because it does not necessarily reflect the route which any new road might follow.

That was the message from Transport for the North (TfN), the strategic body which is currently involved in assessing the viability of new or upgraded cross-Pennine road connections.

Lancashire County Council’s external scrutiny committee heard that the overall aim of the project is to better link the M6 in Central Lancashire with the A1(M) in West and North Yorkshire. Members were told that the details of the scheme – should it be approved – are yet to be finalised.

“The A59 is a potential route – you could come off the M65 before [the end] and cross to join the A1 east of Harrogate,” TfN project manager Owen Wilson explained.

“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,” Mr. Wilson added.

The proposed project is one of the long-term ambitions laid out in TfN’s transport plan, which was published last year. It is expected that delivery of any new route would take over a decade.

Committee member and Nelson East county councillor, Azhar Ali, described the notion of extending the eastbound M65 from its current end point in Colne as “a red herring”.

“No way would you ever get the M65 through the middle of Colne to get to the other side of Cross Hills – that won’t work,” he said.

“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. Because 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 £300,000 study into the potential options for better Lancashire-Yorkshire road links is being led by Highways England. It began this month and is due to report in the autumn, but Mr. Wilson told committee members that the “complexity” of the assessment means it is unlikely to be completed until 2020.