High Speed Two, linking Birmingham and London with Leeds and Manchester, will act as a rail motorway hosting trains direct from Edinburgh, Glasgow, Newcastle, Liverpool, Preston and Lancaster.

Purpose built high speed trains will run directly from the WCML and ECML onto HS2. Secretary of State for Transport, Justine Greening, announced the added bonus together with direct links to the Channel Tunnel and Heathrow Airport in a special statement to parliament.

New high speed trains will be 400 metres long with 1,100 seats, travelling at speeds of up to 250mph. Double-decker trains, compatible with HS2 and HS1 loading gauge, will further boost capacity and comfort.

Although HS2 runs through 13 miles of the Chiltern’s Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty all but two miles of the line will be hidden below surface level. Environmentalists have welcomed the project.

Says Shaun Spiers of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, ‘We are pleased the Government has shown its commitment to Britain’s railways while being sensitive to the impact that HS2 will have on communities and the countryside.’

Mr Spiers welcomed the promise of further tunnelling under the Chilterns. The news marks a personal triumph for Justine Greening who faced well organised opposition from the Tory heartlands and her own party.

HS2 also acknowledges the strengths and accomplishments of the new rail industry and represents a big boost for staff up and down the network.

Says Michael Roberts, Chief Executive of ATOC, ‘HS2 is a vote of confidence in the railways and recognition of the vital role the industry has to play in supporting jobs and driving sustainable economic growth.’

Phase One will see construction of a new 140 mile line between London and Birmingham by 2026.

In the second phase lines will be built to Leeds and Manchester by 2033.