Britain’s first high speed line – known as HS1 - was built to service the Channel Tunnel.
The second – HS2 – is already planned to run from London to Birmingham, attracting criticism from communities near the proposed line that it will be noisy and ruin the countryside.
The latest plans for HS2, revealed by the government, favour a Y-shaped branch linking Birmingham with Manchester, the East Midlands, Sheffield and Leeds.
Opponents have also criticised the economic case for the proposals. Penny Gaines, chair of Stop HS2 said: “The government talks about jobs, and regenerating the north, but in reality, high speed rail projects elsewhere have sucked jobs to the capital cities, away from the regions...the whole HS2 project is fundamentally flawed.
"It should be cancelled as soon as possible, so that we can concentrate on developing the transport infrastructure that will bring more benefits to more people than a fast train for fat cats.”
Transport minister, Patrick McLoughlin MP said: “our railway network will have the capacity to cope with ever increasing numbers of passengers and free up space on existing rail lines for more commuter, rural and freight services, meaning fewer cars and lorries on our roads".
Construction on HS2 will begin in four years and phase one will open to passengers in 13 years. Phase two will open six years after that.