The creaking northern rail network is to benefit from £600m of investment, which will electrify the route from York to Liverpool.
Most of the Department for Transport (DfT) funding will go towards kick-starting the Transpennine Upgrade to electrify most of the line between Manchester and Leeds.
It will also allow faster trains to overtake slower ones by doubling the number of tracks from two to four on the most congested sections around Huddersfield and Leeds.
There are further plans for full electrification, digital signalling, more areas with four tracks and improved freight capacity.
Those measures would allow all-electric services to operate between Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, York and Newcastle.
Easier journeys ahead
Transport secretary Grant Shapps – who is also the Northern Powerhouse minister – described the announcement as ‘very significant’.
He said: “People have heard about the Northern Powerhouse for a long time, but here we are actually getting on and doing it.
“That’s obviously good news. These are improvements which will be delivered in the timescale of this Parliament.
“That means that people’s journeys will become easier once we’ve got those things done.”
He will lead a new body designed to speed up transport investment in the region.
The DfT claimed the Northern Transport Acceleration Council will give northern leaders a “direct line to ministers” to speed up projects.
It will hold its first meeting in September, and will consist of elected mayors and council leaders.