The Prime Minister hinted that he could back Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) in full in a conference speech which put the Conservatives on election alert.
Boris Johnson made his first speech as Prime Minister at the Conservative Party conference yesterday, just 70 days after taking the job.
But instead of using it to outline policies he instead told a series of jokes.
One of the larger laughs from the Conservative faithful was one he rehearsed before DUP activists a night earlier.
Amid warnings over his use of language, Mr Johnson told the convention of a "communist cosmonaut" who needed coaxing into a satellite mission.
He did not need naming for the audience to understand the joke at that point, but the PM would revisit the Labour leader at the close of his speech.
Mr Johnson told the crowd his slogan of the need to "get Brexit done", to cut taxes and "figuratively, if not literally, let us send Jeremy Corbyn into orbit where he belongs".
Although no new policy was announced Mr Johnson did hammer home his new plan for Brexit, which will likely draw the battle lines in an election, which is expected before the end of the year.
But Mr Johnson did reiterate his wish to”level up” all parts of the UK. He said regional inequalities were “not just an injustice but a massive opportunity”.
He said: “I believe that talent and genius and initiative and chutzpah are evenly distributed across the whole UK. But it is also clear that opportunity is not evenly distributed and it is the job of this One Nation Conservative government to unlock talent in every corner of the UK, because that is the right thing to do in itself, and because that is the way to release the economic potential of the whole country.”
As part of that he said: “We’ve improving connectivity, investing in transport, [the] fantastic project of Northern Powerhouse Rail that is now getting the go ahead from Manchester to Leeds just the first leg.”
Praising Manchester for strides already made he said: “And that’s before we’ve delivered Northern Powerhouse Rail linking up the whole of the northern region in the way that we’re going to do.”
Henri Murison, Director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership said: “In his first conference speech as Conservative Party leader, the Prime Minister has again hinted he will commit to delivering Northern Powerhouse Rail in full.
“However, we will only realise the true potential of NPR if it includes new line to Liverpool, parts of HS2 Phase 2b and upgrades, such as the East Coast mainline as far as Newcastle. The new line between Leeds and Manchester through Bradford City Centre, for example, will be most valuable when it is part of that full network.
Together, Northern Powerhouse Rail and HS2 Phase 2 and the wider projects they unlock will be a major factor in rebalancing the economy – making the North and Midlands as prosperous and successful as London - and creating a fairer, more environmentally sustainable UK.”