Proposals for a "HS3" rail link to improve east-west rail journeys across northern England are more than just about "eye-catching" journey-time reductions, according to the boss of HS2.
The scheme, which could cost around £7 billion, was "not just a single project", said HS2 Ltd chairman Sir David Higgins.
He has put forward the HS3 plans in a report incorporating further plans for phase two of the £50 billion HS2 high-speed rail project.
Backed by Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne, HS3 would mean journey times between Leeds and Manchester could almost be cut in half to around 26 minutes.
For phase two of HS2 Sir David's recommendations include:
- To continue with the planned route into Manchester city centre via the airport - keeping open the option to add a new airport station
- Need to review the best station solution for Leeds to include provision for increased east-west services through the city
- The HS2 line should be extended to Crewe by 2027 - six years earlier than originally proposed
- A new station at Sheffield Meadowhall remains the best way to serve the wider South Yorkshire region, though Sir David recognises Sheffield continues to argue for Sheffield Victoria
- That the East Midlands hub should be near the proposed site at Toton
Former deputy prime minister John Prescott has welcomed a report proposing a high speed rail link between Leeds and Manchester, but said his party first recommended the plans a decade ago.
The original Northern Way was created by the three Northern Regional Development Agencies in 2004 on my instruction. It was immediately adopted by a Labour government in its report Northern Way: Making It Happen.
Unfortunately, the Northern Way plan, its resources and the Northern Regional Development Agencies were scrapped in one of the first acts of Chancellor Osborne in 2010.
It's taken four years but I'm glad the Government has U-turned to launch its version of the Northern Way, Osborne's Northern Powerhouse.
We eagerly await the promised resources in the Government's upcoming expenditure statement.
Unfortunately, it means the North has missed out on more than four years of lost growth, jobs and prosperity.
Osborne turned Labour's Northern Way into a Tory Northern Delay.
Ministers who have given the go-ahead for a third high-speed railway link have admitted they do not know how much the new project could cost.
Officials told The Daily Mail it was "too early" to put a figure on it, although the Chancellor previously estimated it would set the government back up to £7 billion.
But there is speculation HS3 could be even more expensive per mile than HS2.
Northern council chiefs have welcomed the announcement, which could see journey times between Manchester and Leeds slashed by more than half from an hour to just 26 minutes.
However, rail protesters claim the government is "throwing good money after bad".
"I welcome today's announcement. HS2 is important strategic infrastructure but must be linked with improvements in the classic rail network to bring maximum benefit. Sir David Higgins is also clear that HS2 should be part of a wider national transport strategy, as the Transport Committee has recommended."
"These proposals are a welcome boost to Northern economies and should be followed by investment following discussions with local authorities and businesses."
Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister and Liberal Democrat MP for Sheffield Hallam, has commented on today's HS2/HS3 announcement.
"I strongly welcome the fact that this report lays to rest, once and for all, the claims made by those who don't believe that high speed rail should pass through south Yorkshire by way of the eastbound link."
"I also welcome David Higgins' call for all communities and local authorities in the north of England to work together to develop plans for better east-west links. There's no point developing north-south links without promoting the connectivity of the cities in the north."
"As a Sheffield MP, it is essential to me that this is not just confined to improving connections between Manchester and Leeds, but helps us in Sheffield and the whole of the north of England too."
As part of the Government's long term economic plan for the north, the Prime Minister and Chancellor gave their backing to develop HS3 - connecting the north's cities which they say could significantly reduce journey times across the region.
"Improving connectivity and reducing journey times between our great northern cities is a crucial part of our long term economic plan for the north to boost businesses and create more jobs and security for hardworking people. That's why we are backing HS3."
"The vision I set out earlier this year of the Northern Powerhouse we could build is rapidly taking shape. I asked Sir David Higgins to look at how we deliver the better transport links across the north that would make a reality of that powerhouse."
"I am delighted with the rapid response and the report. Today we take another big step forward in delivering both the HS2 links from north to south and the HS3 link across the Pennines."
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has the development of the HS2 high-speed railway project linking northern cities will "benefit the UK overall".
"Knowledge based companies whether they are in high-tech manufacturing, the creative industries, finance or the law, have to be close, or feel close to the talent, skills base, support network, knowledge pools, collaborators and clients necessary to create the "hot-house atmosphere" in which they thrive. That is why reducing the journey times between and within our cities isn't just desirable for both passengers and freight. It is a strategic necessity."
"Without question HS2 is the key to transforming the future economy of Leeds and the north. It offers huge benefits in terms of job creation and opportunities, driving growth and innovation and bringing people and places closer together making cities like Leeds and the wider city regions much more attractive for businesses to base themselves."