A report published by the UK National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) noted that the North of England needs immediate and significant investment and a long-term plan to improve transport.

In the report, High Speed North, NIC made various recommendations aimed at reducing journey times, increasing capacity and improving reliability in order to improve connections between economic centres in the North.

The report concluded that HS3, the planned fast rail link between Manchester and Leeds, needs kick-starting as part of a broader plan to improve transport links in northern England.

The transformation will see a higher speed, increased capacity and frequent network from Liverpool in the west to Hull and Newcastle in the east, incorporating key northern sections of HS2, upgraded lines, and sections of new track where necessary.

In the report, NIC recommended that improving connectivity between the cities in the north ‘will not be sufficient to create the northern powerhouse, but is necessary’.

In order to speed up delivery of the northern powerhouse, an upgrade of the Manchester to Leeds railway should be brought forward immediately as the first phase of the proposed HS3 project.

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The plan will also see HS3 integrated with HS2 and planning for the redevelopment of the north’s gateway stations.

The recommendation to kick-start the HS3 network includes the development of a two-part plan for the Trans-Pennine route to reduce the journey time between Manchester and Leeds by 40% from 49 minutes to 30 minutes and to improve capacity and frequency.

Network Rail, in conjunction with Transport for the North (TfN) and the Department for Transport (DfT) will be required to prepare this plan by the end of next year.

"Leeds and Manchester are just forty miles apart but there is no quick and easy way to travel between the two."

It is expected that phase one will reduce journey times between Manchester and Leeds from 49 to 40 minutes and increase capacity by 2022, while the second phase could cut times to 30 minutes.

The northern rail network will also include the redevelopment of Manchester Piccadilly to deliver jobs and investment across the centre of the city.

NIC chairman Lord Andrew Adonis said: "If the north is to become a powerhouse, it has to be better connected.

"Leeds and Manchester are just forty miles apart but there is no quick and easy way to travel between the two.

"In rush hour, it can take more than two hours by car and by train it can be almost an hour.

"So we should kick-start HS3 across the Pennines and slash journey times to just 30 minutes.

"But we must not wait decades for change, journey times should be cut to 40 minutes by 2022."

The NIC report follows a report published recently by the commission, which suggested that funding should be made available now to develop Crossrail 2.

In the report entitled Transport for a World City, the commission urged the government to strengthen support for development of the Crossrail 2 link across London, describing the northeast-southwest line as a ‘priority’ for the city.