By Jonathan Davies

The government has set out plans for a multi-billion pound overhaul of the rail system in the north of England.

The Northern Transport Strategy report contains new investment plans which the Chancellor George Osborne believes will help to create the 'northern economic powerhouse'.

The plans focus on speeding-up train journeys and options range between upgrading existing lines or creating new ones between key economic locations, dubbed 'HS3'.

But the report also contains plans to improve road links between northern cities.

But the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union said the proposals are "yet more pie-in-the-sky nonsense".

New proposed routes include:

- Leeds to Newcastle, cutting journey times to around 50 minutes, costing £8-14bn.

- Sheffield to Manchester, and Mancester to Leeds, cutting journey times to around 30 minutes, costing £12-19bn.

- Liverpool to Manchester, cutting journey times to around 20 minutes, costing £8-13bn.

George Osborne said: "Connecting up the great cities of the North is at the heart of our plan to build a northern powerhouse.

"From backing high-speed rail to introducing simpler fares right across the North, our ambitious plans for transport mean we will deliver a truly national recovery where every part of the country will share in Britain's prosperity."

Mick Cash, leader of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union said the region was already "lumped with clapped-out, overcrowded trains with any replacement programme light years off".

The report also contains plans to improve road networks between major cities, including widening sections of the M1, M6 and M62, better connections to Manchester Airport and improvements to the A1.