The £600m Northern Hub project, which includes upgrades to the railway in the North of England, was launched by the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne when he flagged off the £20m platform upgrade at Manchester Airport station.

The project is expected to create up to 20,000 new jobs, and is estimated to generate £4bn for the northern region while offering long-term benefits to passengers by enhancing capacity and reducing journey times.

As part of the project, existing railway network in the North of England will be electrified, while major renovations will be made to the network in and around Manchester.

Expected to be completed in 2019, the upgrades will allow up to 700 more trains to run each day, providing space for 44 million passengers to the area a year.

"This investment will ensure growth is not concentrated in any one place."

Mr Osborne said: "The government’s long term plan is about securing a recovery for all parts of the country.

"This investment will ensure growth is not concentrated in any one place by keeping Britain connected and creating thousands of local jobs, delivering a brighter economic future for the whole country."

Working closely with Transport for Greater Manchester and MAG, the start and completion of the work at Manchester Airport station will take place 18 months ahead of the original plans. The work will be carried out by contractors constructing the extension of the Metrolink tram system to the airport.

Construction of the fourth platform at Manchester Airport station will take place between 14 March and 7 April and will include two weekend closures of services at the station on 14 and 15 March and 5 and 6 April. The station work is due for completion by the end of 2015.

Image: George Osborne and Network Rail area director Martin Frobisher at Manchester Airport station. Photo: courtesy of Network Rail.