Chancellor George Osborne has called for a third high-speed rail link.
The proposal could cost up to £7bn, though the chancellor said it could be delivered cheaper if existing lines were used.
The link would connect Manchester and Leeds as part of a wider plan to create a hub among the north’s major cities, which could compete with London. Road improvements, and ultimately high-speed rail links to Sheffield and Liverpool, may also feature.
Osborne told the BBC the building of the link should be considered as part of a review into the second phase of the £43bn HS2 project.
The chancellor will provide more detail on the proposed scheme, which would be the UK’s third high-speed line, in a speech in Manchester this evening.
Osborne will say: “We need to think big. We need an ambitious plan to make the cities and towns here in this northern belt radically more connected from east to west – to create the equivalent of travelling around a single global city.
“As well as fixing the roads, that means considering a new high-speed rail link. Today I want us to start thinking about whether to build a new high-speed rail connection east-west from Manchester to Leeds. Based on the existing rail route, but speeded up with new tunnels and infrastructure. A third high speed railway for Britain.”
Osborne will be joined this evening by HS2 chairman Sir David Higgins who has argued for speeding up the northern sections of that project.