A major business leader has applauded the move towards more independent power in the north of England.

Steve Gillingham, director for the north at consultancy giant, Mace, said the upcoming inaugural meeting of Transport for the North in Liverpool on Thursday was key to improving economic fortunes.

The meeting represents the official formation of England’s first sub-national transport body, which will have new powers over rail and road travel.

Mr Gillingham claimed that a better-connected north of the country could create around 85,000 new jobs and contribute as much as £100bn of value to the economy.

He said: “This is a landmark day for the north of England. To punch above its weight and make a greater contribution to the UK’s prosperity, the North needs to be given the tools to transform transport connectivity across the region.

“The key to unlocking this potential is devolution and today’s new status for Transport for the North is a milestone on that journey.”

Transport for the North will be the body responsible for the development of Northern Powerhouse Rail, which would be a new railway line connecting Liverpool, Manchester, Bradford and Leeds with the upcoming HS2.