Pressure group the North West Rail Campaign called for all political parties to make investment in rail infrastructure a priority in their manifestos.
Roger Jones, director of the North West Rail Campaign, said: "It will be impossible for the cities of the North to reach their economic potential if they continue to be hampered by rail services that, in the case of Liverpool to Manchester, are slower than they were one hundred years ago. The same problem occurs right across the transpennine route, hampering the economies of the growth engines of the region – Leeds, Bradford, Sheffield, Newcastle, Manchester, Warrington, Chester and Liverpool.
"The main issue for the North West is the Manchester Hub, an area around Piccadilly Station. It's a major bottleneck on the rail network that negatively impacts on rail services for the whole of the North of England. It is a problem of national strategic importance that urgently needs a commitment to its resolution."
The campaign says the hub also hampers rail services running north to Preston, Cumbria and Scotland, and south to Cheshire, North Wales and the Midlands.
Network Rail is currently studying potential options to solve the problems of the hub by increasing capacity. This report is scheduled for release in early 2010. The campaign released its own Manchester Hub report today.
Jones continued: "The development of high-speed rail is generating a lot of interest and is to be welcomed, but could be at least 20 years away before it reaches the North West. We need to ensure that there is investment in the Manchester hub problem before then. It is impossible to consider a high-speed, high-quality rail service to Manchester and beyond, if access through the city continues to be inadequate."