Inter-city trains between Manchester and York could be the first in Britain to be digitally controlled, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling will announce.
Mr Grayling, who has been accused of starving the North of transport investment, will use a speech to business leaders in Manchester to insist he wants to give the region "the newest, best, smartest technology".
He has allocated £5 million of funding to Network Rail to develop plans for installing digital signalling on the line between Manchester and York in a bid to increase capacity and reliability.
This will come from a £450 million fund for digital railway development announced in the Autumn Statement last year.
Upgrades to the Transpennine route are already being planned as part of the Great North Rail Project, which will reduce journey times between Leeds and Manchester.
Digital signalling is used on sections of the London Underground, allowing trains to run closer together.
Mr Grayling is expected to say:
The Transport Secretary sparked anger in July by supporting a new £30 billion Crossrail 2 scheme in London and the South East days after a series of rail electrification projects in Wales, the Midlands and the North were axed or downgraded.
But speaking in Manchester - which hosts the Conservative Party Conference from October 1 - Mr Grayling will claim he is committed to electrification where it benefits passengers.
He is expected to say:
Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said in August that people in northern England were tired of "clapped-out trains" while billions of pounds were poured into rail projects in the South, adding that "the patience of people in the North of England has run out".