A north-south high-speed rail (HSR) network would mean that internal flights in the UK would become largely a thing of the past, according to Transport Secretary Philip Hammond.
He described the HSR route - along with a link to Heathrow airport - as being “at the heart” of the new Government’s transport policy.
Mr Hammond added that funding discussions for a scheme that would “transform our cities and regenerate our regions” would soon begin.
He was speaking at an HSR conference in London arranged to discuss the Government plans for a high-speed route linking London with northern England, the Midlands and Scotland.
“We believe that HSR can encourage a modal shift from long car journeys and short-haul flights to rail,” said Hammond.
“It will make the bulk of domestic flying a thing of the past in due course.”
Mr Hammond confirmed that the Government hoped to start work on a HSR route “during the course of 2015”.
He admitted that this represented a “very testing timetable” but he believed that HSR is “a well-judged capital spending” project.