The extension of High Speed 2 beyond Birmingham to Crewe has been brought forward by six years, chancellor George Osborne has confirmed.
Under revised plans for the £55.7bn line, the second phase of the project is now scheduled to follow hot on the heels of phase one, with the Birmingham-Crewe section set for a 2027 opening.
The government also announced the appointment of former CBI director general John Cridland as the first chair of the newly created Transport for the North (TfN).
In last week’s Spending Review, the chancellor confirmed a £13bn investment in northern transport projects over the course of the parliament, including £200m to support TfN.
As revealed by Construction News in September, more than £3bn of the £11.8bn civils contracts currently being tendered for HS2 will cover the first section of phase two.
The extension of HS2 to Crewe will cut journey times to London by 45 minutes.
Mr Osborne said: “In my Spending Review we committed to the biggest rise in transport spending in a generation meaning that major projects like the construction of HS2, to link the Northern Powerhouse to the south, can begin.
“Bringing forward this part of the HS2 route by six years is a massive step in the right direction for the Northern Powerhouse where high-speed rail will play a big role in connecting up the entire region with the rest of the country.
Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin added: “HS2 will mean an economic transformation for the whole country.
“Bringing HS2 to Crewe ahead of time is a tremendous opportunity for the North to feel the benefits even sooner.
“Cities across the North-west and Scotland will gain much-needed additional rail capacity and faster services, helping support growth and deliver jobs.”
Commenting on his appointment, Mr Cridland said: “There is much to do to improve transport capacity and links across the North, and we now have the opportunity to make this happen.
“I look forward to working with city leaders, minsters and all stakeholders across the North of England.”