High speed train of the type proposed for the HS2 network
High speed train of the type proposed for the HS2 network Reuters

Sir David Higgins, the executive chairman of the High Speed 2 (HS2) railway project, has given his backing for a HS3 route in the north of England.

Higgins has been looking at a way in which the country could utilise HS2 to fulfil its potential and concluded that exponentially better rail links in the north of the country were "desirable" and "possible".

If North England was to get the HS3, which could run through Manchester, Wigan, Sheffield, Leeds and Nottingham, the midlands would be used as the hub, as with the case for HS2, which will run from Birmingham to London and vice versa.

Higgings told BBC Breakfast: "If you look at the two huge cities – Leeds and Manchester – less than 0.5% of the people in each city travel to the other city to work.

"So in this competitive world access to skilled people is crucial for cities to compete and a good, reliable, fast rail service will improve that."

A HS3 link between Manchester and Leeds could reduce the journey time from 48 minutes to 26 minutes.

An interim report from Higgins and HS2 Ltd will be produced in March 2015.

Chancellor George Osborne recently said a connected North would be extremely beneficial to the economy, greater than the sum of its individually strong parts – "a northern global powerhouse".

In a press release the office of Prime Minister David Cameron also gave its backing to the project.

Fast rail links between Manchester and Leeds could potentially cost £7bn ($11.8bn, €8.8bn), but the price could be reduced if existing rail lines were updated.