The Government intends to build two branches to the planned new £33bn high-speed rail network north of Birmingham, transport secretary Philip Hammond will announce today.
He will use his keynote speech to the Conservative party conference to declare that ministers prefer the so-called Y-option over a single S-shaped line crossing the Pennines.
It means that separate lines will provide services between Birmingham and Manchester and between Birmingham and Leeds, the latter cutting through the East Midlands.
They will then link up with the existing west coast and east coast mainlines respectively, cutting journey times between London and both Edinburgh and Glasgow to three and a half hours.
The cost of the network, which will start in London, is estimated at about £33bn, although more detailed cost analysis is to be undertaken next year, as is a consultation on the plans.
The cost includes linking up the new network with Heathrow airport and the existing high-speed rail link between London and the Channel Tunnel.
Hammond’s figure is around £3bn more than the estimated capital costs for the project given by former transport secretary Lord Adonis earlier this year.
Ministers have plumped for the Y-option because it is thought to offer the best return on the investment, estimated to be £2 for every £1 put in. Construction is expected to start in 2015.
Hammond will tell the Birmingham conference today that his plans would support economic growth and, by offering an alternative to air and car travel, cut carbon emissions.
“We will consult in the new year on the strategic roll-out of a high-speed rail network and on our preferred route for the first leg between London and Birmingham.
“But I can announce today that the Government’s preferred option for high speed rail north of Birmingham will be for two separate corridors – one direct to Manchester, and then connecting on to the west coast mainline, and the other via the East Midlands and South Yorkshire, with stations in both areas, before connecting to the east coast mainline north of Leeds,” he will say.