Plans for a potential High Speed 3 rail link in the north of England have been mooted, before work on the already controversial HS2 has begun.
A report from the boss of the HS2 scheme, Sir David Higgins, released earlier has said better rail links in northern England were “desirable” and “possible” after being asked to look at ways of maximising the benefits of HS2.
Construction on the £50 billion HS2 project is due to start in 2017.
Phase one involves a new high-speed line from Euston in London to Birmingham, with an expected completion date of 2026.
Phase two was originally scheduled to be completed in 2032/33, although Sir David is keen for this date to be brought forward.
Under plans for a potential HS3 journey times from Manchester to Leeds could be cut from 48 to 26 minutes.
The government said it would now produce a strategy looking at options, costs and a delivery timetable for HS3.
An interim report will be produced in March.
The east-west improvements backed by Sir David would be in addition to the north-of-Birmingham phase two of HS2, which will see a Y-shaped route going from Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds.
Higgins said improvements to rail services between Leeds and Manchester could involve a doubling of trains per hour, with either a new high-speed track and tunnel under the Pennines, or an upgrade to the existing line.
Chancellor George Osborne said in June that a high-speed rail link between Manchester and Leeds could help to create a “northern global powerhouse” and asked Sir David to consider how to improve east-west connectivity.