The most congested section of the route will be doubled from two to four tracks to allow fast trains to overtake slower ones. Most of the line will be electrified, and the Department for Transport (DfT) says its ambition is to go further. “Full electrification, digital signalling, more multi-tracking and improved freight capacity are now under consideration as part of an Integrated Rail Plan due to report in December,” the DfT says.

The DfT also says work is underway to tackle bottlenecks at each end of the route, without which the upgrade’s potential cannot be fulfilled. Leeds station is being resignalled and an additional platform is under construction, while £10m was awarded last month to help tackle rail congestion in central Manchester.

Britain’s transport secretary, Mr Grant Shapps, also approved the establishment of the Northern Transport Acceleration Council, which will endeavour to implement infrastructure projects in northern England more quickly by cutting bureaucracy.

The council will give northern leaders a direct line to ministers and will engage with DfT staff based in northern cities. The council, which will hold its first meeting in September, will be chaired by Shapps and will comprise regional mayors and council leaders.