Plans for a new high-speed rail network between London and Scotland could be agreed as early as March, according to the Transport Secretary Lord Adonis.
The move would follow approval of a government-backed study into a 200mph route that would cut journey times to the north of Britain by half to just over two hours.
However the network would cost an estimated £34bn to build, and take many years to build.
The proposals will be drawn up after Lord Adonis received a report today from High Speed 2 (HS2), a company the government set up earlier this year to draw up detailed plans for a fast north-south rail link.
Adonis told Reuters that the report was the “most detailed examination ever undertaken” on high-speed rail in Britain.
“Our high-speed network lags behind that of many of our European neighbours and doesn’t connect any of our major cities, but this report could change that,” he said.
The HS2 report details a route for the first stage of a north-south high-speed line, from London to the West Midlands.
It includes options for extending the link further north, to northwest England, the east Midlands, Yorkshire, northeast England and Scotland.
A public consultation on the route would then follow later in the year. However with an election scheduled for May, the expected change of government could quash the plans, particularly as a radical expenditure cuts are required to get the country’s financing back in order.
However, the Conservatives are in favour of high-speed rail on environmental grounds.
Britain only has 68 miles of high-speed rail, linking London to the Channel Tunnel to France.
Adonis noted the rest of Europe has 3,600 miles of high speed rail in operation, with another 2,000 under construction, while China would have 6,000 miles open by 2012.