AMBITIOUS plans to strengthen York's economy by improving the East Coast Main Line have been praised by councillors.

City of York Council has worked alongside nearly 40 other councils on the Consortium of East Coast Main Line Authorities (ECMA) to draw up a list of ideas they believe will generate around £5bn of growth if connections between York, Edinburgh, Newcastle and Peterborough were enhanced.

The list includes bringing the HS2 high speed rail link to York, Leeds and the north east earlier than proposed, and improve the movement of freight, and the quality of rail trips by introducing 100 per cent mobile connectivity.

Linda Cowling, leader of Ryedale District Council, said: "Anything which means freight or passengers can be moved about quicker means the economy will benefit.

"The Government is just waking up to what goes on in the north of England.

"We have some very good technology here with the wind farms and the work that goes on around here really is unbelievable. We need this link to the rest of the country.

"The sooner we get it the better."

Mark Crane, leader of Selby District Council, supported the plans, but called on ministers to re-think the proposed HS2 route, which would go through Church Fenton if it is given the go ahead.

He added: "On a broader front, I would say plans to move freight and people quicker can only be better, and I support the economic benefits, but I'm not sure about the current route for HS2.

"Any extra money coming along is welcomed, and I'm sure Selby will get some spin-offs from that, but purely on HS2, I'm not yet absolutely convinced about the economic benefits that will bring."

A spokesman for the Department for Transport, who will decide whether or not the scheme goes ahead, said: "In making our decision, we will look at factors set out in the Invitation to Tender including value for money, long-term benefits for communities across the route and improved services for passengers and local businesses.

“We are fully committed to our plans for a high speed rail network connecting Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds as part of our proposals for HS2 Phase Two, on which we consulted earlier this year and will report in the autumn. High Speed trains would continue seamlessly onto York, increasing capacity and improving journey times.

"The Government has asked HS2 Ltd chairman Sir David Higgins to look at how to bring the benefits of high speed rail to the north more quickly, as well as initial proposals for faster east-west connections, and report back later this year.

"Sir David will discuss his work with leaders from the north and Network Rail to ensure it is part of a comprehensive plan for the entire railway network.”