EXTENDING the M65 across the Pennines is now firmly on the agenda for Transport for the North.

The regional body charge with improving road and rail connections yesterday officially confirmed continuing the motorway from Preston, Blackburn and Burnley through Pendle into Yorkshire is in its plans.

Northern Powerhouse Minister and Rossendale and Darwen MP Jake Berry said an M65 extension would be ‘a game-changer for East Lancashire’.

The influential transport group has an £80million a year fund.

Hyndburn Labour MP Graham Jones, a campaigner for the motorway’s continuation across the Pennines, said its inclusion in TfN’s Central Pennines Study was ‘fantastic news’.

Mr Berry said, ‘I am delighted that TfN are supporting the need to improve our transport connections between Lancashire and Yorkshire.

“Extending the M65 to Yorkshire would be a game-changer for East Lancashire and this is a huge step forward to making this proposal a reality."

Lancaster And Morecambe Citizen: The map of the Central Pennines Corridor

He added: “The government has invested millions in upgrading the M60 and M62 motorways but we must look to further increase the capacity across the Pennines, the M65 could be the best way to do this.”

READ MORE: Campaign to re-open Colne-Skipton line

John Cridland, TfN’s chairman, said: “Our work has identified options for providing dual carriageway routes from Colne (M65) to the A1(M) in Yorkshire and will complete work on an initial economic appraisal of this during the early part of 2019.

“Work is at an options assessment stage and additional work is required to consider if the project will be viable as the potential costs and benefits are more clearly identified.”

Mr Jones said: “Everybody is now getting behind the campaign to extend the M65,which currently ends in car park, across the Pennines. It would bring prosperity to Hyndburn and the whole of East Lancashire.”

The TfN plans for the M65 extension were first mooted in April when the group revealed their £80m blueprint.

Former Blackburn MP Jack Straw said: “It is not right that the M65 currently ends in car park in Colne. Extending it across the Pennines would benefit the whole of East Lancashire. It need to be done along with extending the railway line from Colne to Skipton.”

Pendle MP Andrew Stephenson said: "I welcome any study looking at tackling the major congestion at the end of the M65 in Colne. I doubt that extending the motorway is feasible but we should look at all options."

TfN board member and Blackburn with Darwen transport boss Cllr Phil Riley said: “This extension one of a number of option being considered.

“It could significantly improve East-West transport link but would need the full political and financial support of the government of the day.”

The conclusions from the work in the Central Pennines Study will be published alongside TfN’s Strategic Transport Plan and Long Term Investment programme early next year.