The Government is investing £589 million to upgrade and electrify the Transpennine main line between Leeds, Huddersfield and Manchester.
The funding has been announced alongside the creation of a Northern Transport Acceleration Council, which is dedicated to accelerating infrastructure projects and better connecting communities across the North’s towns and cities.
The most congested section of the Transpennine route will be doubled from two to four tracks, allowing fast trains to overtake slower ones, with the aim of improving journey times and reliability for passengers across the North.
Most of the line will be electrified and the Government is considering full electrification, digital signalling, more multi-tracking and improved freight capacity as part of an ‘Integrated Rail Plan’ due to report in December.
These improvements will allow all-electric services between Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, York and Newcastle, bring longer and more frequent trains, and create significantly more local capacity along the line, the Government said.
Improvements to allow more freight on the route, replacing thousands of diesel lorry journeys with electric freight trains, will also be considered in the plan.
Work is also underway to tackle the bottlenecks at either end of the route. Leeds station is being resignalled and a new platform is being built. In central Manchester, development funding was awarded last month to tackle rail congestion.
The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, said: "Levelling-up opportunity will be key in our recovery from coronavirus and our long-term success will rely on having world-class infrastructure in all parts of the country. The Transpennine rail upgrade shows we are delivering on our promises to the North."
Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, said: "The additional funding for the Transpennine route upgrade is a welcome sign of intent from the Government.
"The North has long argued for the existing scheme to be upgraded to bring the full range of passenger and freight benefits and we are glad that the Government has listened to this.
"But it is important to be clear that upgrading the existing railway between Manchester and Leeds does not diminish the need for a new line in Northern Powerhouse Rail nor does it solve the capacity issues in central Manchester which require a separate solution.
"As we look to recover from Covid-19 and build back better, I am ready to work in constructive partnership with the Government to get visible transport improvements as quickly as possible.
"My top priority is to build a London-style, integrated public transport system in Greater Manchester and I look forward to working with the Secretary of State on making this vision a reality."
Darren Shirley, chief executive of Campaign for Better Transport, called for a "rolling programme of electrification" across the country.
He said: "Projects like this are exactly what's needed to help transport meet net zero carbon emissions targets while rebuilding the economy fairly and sustainably.
"But investment shouldn't stop here: we want to see a rolling programme of electrification to decarbonise rail around the country while retaining and developing skills in the industry.
"Across the board, let's prioritise infrastructure that supports sustainable transport, such as rail reopenings, transport interchanges and bus priority schemes."