As Yorkshire leaders wait for the results of the government-commissioned review into whether HS2 should go ahead, a study is taking place into how the connections between Bradford, Wakefield and Leeds could be improved, The Yorkshire Post has learned.
The current plan includes a junction in Stourton, south of Leeds, which would allow the high speed rail schemes approaching from the south to loop round and pass through the city's station rather than terminating in Leeds or passing through altogether on the way north.
But Transport for the North says creating this junction would lead to "significant disruption in south Leeds and significant impacts upon local employment sites", with a £800m cost much higher than originally thought.
Now a new study is looking at the "additional wider benefits of constructing the junction at Stourton in terms of wider connectivity and future network capacity and flexibility".
The results will not be agreed for a few weeks, but a report seen by The Yorkshire Post says "emerging findings have identified that alternative approaches could allow better connectivity between Wakefield, Bradford and Leeds".
These include extending the proposed junction at Clayton in South Yorkshire so services compatible with the faster HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail lines could run on the East Coast Mainline through Wakefield Westgate.
Officials are also considering whether to re-instate the Wortley Curve, a section of line which disappeared in 1985 but previously linked the Calder Valley line to Bradford Interchange with the line to Wakefield Westgate.
The line once allowed trains from London to bypass Leeds, and the TfN report says bringing it back into use would "enable direct trains to and from Bradford / Calderdale avoiding Leeds".
The report comes at a sensitive time for the future of high speed rail in the North, with the results of the government-commissioned Oakervee review into the high speed HS2 route between London, Leeds and Manchester due in the coming weeks.
At the same time northern leaders are hoping to get confirmation in March's Budget that Ministers will fund Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) which connects the major cities of the North with high speed rail.
Transport for the North is promising to "ramp up" a programme of communications in 2020 "to ensure wider audience awareness of the programme’s aims, progress and support".
And despite speculation that parts of HS2 will be axed to save money amid spiralling costs, a report says TfN "continues to plan on the basis that HS2 will be delivered in full and to the public timescales".
The design of NPR is said to be "intrinsically linked" to the section of HS2 between Birmingham and Leeds, with a number of shared junctions and "significant stretches of shared infrastructure".
As well as Stourton, another unresolved issue is how Manchester's Piccadilly station should be extended to accommodate the 250mph HS2 trains from London and NPR trains to Liverpool, Leeds and the rest of the North.
Analysis by TfN suggests a six platform, 400 metre station could be built above ground - extending the proposed HS2 station at the site by two platforms - for an extra £570m compared to the original HS2-only scheme.
But officials in Greater Manchester, led by Labour metro mayor Andy Burnham, refuse to back this and have argued strongly for an underground station to accommodate Northern Powerhouse Rail.
Costings by transport officials suggest such a station would need four 400-metre platforms and would cost £6bn. But Mr Burnham's team have cast doubt on the evidence used for the decision and say more work is needed.
The evidence is now being independently reviewed by Richard George, the northern rail trouble-shooterand former London Olympics director of transport.
A West Yorkshire Combined Authority spokesman said: “We are working with Transport for the North to look at the future shape of the Leeds City Region rail network and the best way to maximise the positive impacts of HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail for all our communities.
“As part of this work we are considering whether there are alternative approaches which could deliver the same or better benefits as the proposed Stourton touchpoint.”