Transport Secretary Andrew Adonis today announced proposals which would create an initial core high-speed rail network linking London to Birmingham, with trains running at up to 250 miles per hour.
Connections onto existing tracks would allow direct high-speed services to be operated to cities including Glasgow, Edinburgh, Newcastle and Liverpool.
Full public consultation on a high speed line from London to Birmingham, and a longer term strategy for high speed rail, will begin in the autumn. Detailed planning work will now also begin on the route options from Birmingham to Manchester and to Leeds to allow consultation on these routes in 2012.
Depending on the outcome of consultation and Parliamentary timescales and approval, the high-speed network could be opening in phases from 2026.
Adonis said: "The time has come for Britain to plan seriously for high speed rail between our major cities. The high-speed line from London to the Channel Tunnel has been a clear success, and many European and Asian countries now have extensive and successful high-speed networks. I believe high speed rail has a big part to play in Britain's future."