UK transport secretary Chris Grayling has confirmed the majority of the preferred HS2 route from Crewe to Manchester and the West Midlands to Leeds.
The government hopes new HS2 trains will carry over 300,000 people a day and triple the number of seats available out of Euston at peak hours.
However, the plan does not include a final decision over where to site a new station in or near Sheffield.
The preferred option is for the government would see the main HS2 route run east of Sheffield but for a spur to take passengers to Sheffield city centre.
Another spur will take HS2 to a new station at Manchester Airport.
The plan will see space freed on the existing network for additional commuter and freight services.
Grayling said: “Our railways owe much to the Victorian engineers who pioneered them, but we cannot rest on their legacy when we face overcrowding and capacity problems.
“HS2 is an ambitious and exciting project and the government is seizing the opportunity it offers to build a transport network fit for the 21st century; one that works for all.
“The full HS2 route will be a game-changer for the country that will slash journey times and perhaps most importantly give rail passengers on the existing network thousands of extra seats every day.
“They represent the greatest upgrade to our railway in living memory.”
Grayling also announced that HS2 has awarded £900 million in construction contracts so that work on the first phase of HS2 between the West Midlands and London can get underway next year as planned.
A command paper - High Speed Two: from Crewe to Manchester, the West Midlands to Leeds and beyond – was published today setting out the plans in more detail.
On the western leg, HS2 will continue north from Crewe to Manchester Airport and on to Manchester city centre, where a new HS2 station will be built next to Manchester Piccadilly.
There will also be a connection to Liverpool and to the existing West Coast main line allowing HS2 services to continue north, serving stations to Glasgow and Edinburgh.
On the eastern leg, HS2 will continue from the West Midlands to Toton in the East Midlands, where a new HS2 station will be built to serve Nottingham, Derby and the wider region, before continuing north from the East Midlands to South Yorkshire.
The government has also proposed HS2 should serve Sheffield with a connection to the existing station with the main route be moved further east.
A final decision will be made next year.
In South Yorkshire, HS2 will continue to Leeds where a new HS2 station will be built in Leeds city centre, adjacent to the existing station, while the line will also have a connection onto the East Coast Main Line, allowing HS2 to serve York, Newcastle and other places in the north-east.