The government has given the go-ahead to the HS2 high speed rail project with the first £16.4bn phase between London and Birmingham cutting journey times to 49 minutes.
Extra lines taking the service to Manchester and Leeds should be finished by 2033. It is expected to cut journey times between Manchester and London to 73 minutes.
The announcement was welcomed by Mike Blackburn, chair of the Greater Manchester Local Enterprise Partnership.
He said: "High Speed Rail is crucial to the future of UK plc. It will ensure that cities such as Manchester remain economic powerhouses of Britain as well as creating and securing thousands of jobs across the region.
"The city's current rail infrastructure, whilst greatly improved in recent years, cannot match the impressive pace at which Manchester continues to develop.
"We need a rail network the envy of other countries around the world and improved connectivity with London will open up a whole range of additional business opportunities."
Andrew Stokes, chief executive of Marketing Manchester, said: "Quite simply, the city deserves high speed rail.
"Manchester is the economic powerhouse of the north of England and the only alternative UK engine of the economy to London. It has achieved this in spite of a rail infrastructure that was designed in the pre-Victorian era."
Critics say it will benefit London more than the North and cost too much. They also argue the existing system is fast enough.
Transport secretary Justine Greening said it would be the most significant transport infrastructure project since the building of the motorways and the first major new railway line since the Victorian era.
The government says the project will pay for itself over its lifetime, generating economic benefits of up to £47bn and fare revenues of up to £34bn over a 60-year period.
Extra tunnelling has been introduced to appease protestors who say the line will ruin the countryside.