Transport secretary Philip Hammond has given the go ahead to two high speed rail routes from Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds.
After considering advice from HS2 Ltd, the company set up by the then Labour government in 2009 to study the feasibility of constructing a high speed rail network, Mr Hammond said he would consult on the proposed routes early next year.
A HS2 report said the ‘Y’ shaped network, which will join up with a London to Birmingham line, would deliver £25bn more in relative benefits compared with alternative routes.
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.”
Plans to build a high speed link between London and Birmingham announced by former transport secretary Lord Adonis earlier this year sparked protest from Buckinghamshire CC.
After Mr Hammond’s statement, Martin Tett, cabinet member for planning and environment, said: “We completely support the objective of regenerating the north of England and the key need to invest in our transport infrastructure. However, putting so much money into a single, extremely high cost, prestigious project to arrive twenty minutes earlier in Birmingham is the wrong approach.
“Even if the Government does press ahead with this scheme then steps need to be taken to look at options which would avoid irreparable damage to the nationally designated Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and other key landscape along the proposed route. A route through the widest and least spoilt part of the AONB is surely environmental folly.”
Construction on the route, which is estimated to cost between £15.8bn and £17.4bn, is expected to start in 2017.