Merseytravel has approved a report recommending improved rail links between Liverpool, Cheshire and North Wales, with the possibility of new direct services from Lime Street.
The transport executive will fund research for the next stage of a rail project which will allow for the outline design and construction of the Halton Curve. This would bring back into full use the section of the line that links the Chester-Warrington line and the Liverpool-Crewe line at Frodsham Junction.
Full re-opening of the curve would improve links to Liverpool John Lennon Airport as well as opening up more leisure and work opportunities across the region.
The estimated cost of delivering the project is £10.6m and would be dependent on work scheduled by Network Rail to take place in 2016.
This project is being developed by Merseytravel, Halton Council, the Welsh Government and a consortium of six county authorities in North Wales.
Merseytravel will be seeking contributions to the latest complex phase in the research which is expected to cost around £500,000.
Cllr Liam Robinson, chairman of Merseytravel's Integrated Transport Authority, said: "The Halton Curve may only be one and a half miles long but could be the key to unlocking so many more opportunities for people in our city region, North Wales and Cheshire.
"It wouldn't be a project in isolation but part of the overarching vision for connectivity with the Liverpool City Region and the wider North West linking with plans for HS2 and developments of the lines to Manchester."