A new high speed rail line is 20-30 years away, according to transport secretary Lord Adonis.
Adonis said he wanted to “transform connections” between the North East, North West, Yorkshire, West Midland and Scotland.
He said: “In due course we want to see all of the conurbations connected, but building a high-speed line that’s going to go potentially for 500 miles of track can’t be done in one go.”
Lib Dem Sir Alan Beith has warned that if the line terminates in Leeds there would be a negative effect on the North East, while Tory Philip Davies expressed similar concerns about North West.
Lord Adonis said he does not want to implement a “crazy scheme” that would result in the mass bulldozing of properties.
He said: “It’s not the case that in order to have a very ambitious plan, there has to be a really serious impact on existing settlements.” When the Channel Tunnel link was built, he said, fewer than 20 houses were demolished.
High Speed 2 (HS2) is due to report at the end of the year.