A multi-billion pound project to link London with Birmingham and the North of England, will get official backing, Transport Secretary Philip Hammond told the Conservative conference in Birmingham.
Under the scheme, the line from London will diverge into two branches from Birmingham, one high speed track linked to Manchester and another to Leeds, where they will connect with existing east and west coast mainline services - dramatically enhancing business links, and attracting more revenue for the railways.
It is reckoned that the route north of Birmingham will cost £11.2 billion to construct, plus £1.25 billion a year to operate.
Confirming that the Government will consult next year on the on the strategic roll-out of the project, Mr Hammond said: 'We have committed to a high speed rail network that will change the social and economic geography of Britain; connecting our great population centres and our international gateways; transforming the way Britain works as profoundly as the coming of the original railways did in the mid-19th Century.'
The Transport Secretary said the strategic project would make rail the mode of choice for most inter-city journeys within the UK, as well as for many beyond.