COUNCILS are facing ridicule for launching a campaign to have the A1(M) through the region rechristened the M1, saying it would help businesses “demonstrate their connections to key markets”.

The North East Combined Authority (Neca), Tees Valley Unlimited and North Yorkshire County Council today (Thursday) announced a “call for evidence” to “bring the M1 to the North-East”.

But rather than any extra investment in the region’s roads, their campaign is simply for a renaming exercise.

The authorities say the change would mean more than just changing road signs, though did not give any specific examples when invited to do so.

The move comes as the Government is investing £700m in upgrading the road, creating an unbroken motorway from London to Newcastle for the first time ever by 2017, and Chancellor George Osborne said he would look into the case for renaming the A1(M).

Highways England is investigating the cost of the change.

Councillor Nick Forbes, Newcastle City Council leader, chair of the Transport North East Committee and Neca’s lead member for transport, said: “The North-East has been separated from the national motorway network since it was created in the 1950s.

“Now at last there’s the prospect of us accessing transport links which other regions take for granted.

“Connecting the North-East to the M1 would send a strong message to business and inward investors that we are a connected region, trading within the UK and with the world.”

But the move was dismissed as costly window dressing by critics.

Durham Liberal Democrat councillor Mark Wilkes said: “Simply changing the name of a road is not going to have the major impact which the North-East needs. It appears the powers that be think they can pull the wool over residents’ eyes by changing the name without committing the badly needed additional investment.”

Newcastle Lib Dem Greg Stone added: “If changing the name helps us demonstrate the motorway link that might help business but there’s going to be a lot of cost for relatively little return.”

Business people wishing to comment on the proposal should email: