The Government prefers a 'Y shaped' high speed rail route north of Birmingham with separate lines to Leeds and Manchester, Transport Secretary Philip Hammond said today.
The twin route would allow the East Midlands and South Yorkshire to be served by the high speed rail network, as well as Leeds, Manchester and the North West.
Hammond told the Conservative party conference: "We have committed to a high speed rail network that will change the social and economic geography of Britain; connecting our great population centres and our international gateways; transforming the way Britain works as profoundly as the coming of the original railways did in the mid-19th Century.
"So we will consult in the New Year on the strategic roll-out of a High Speed Rail network and on our preferred route for the first leg between London and Birmingham.
"But I can announce today that the Government's preferred option for High Speed Rail north of Birmingham will be for two separate corridors. One direct to Manchester, and then connecting on to the West Coast Mainline, and the other via the East Midlands and South Yorkshire – with stations in both areas – before connecting to the East Coast Mainline north of Leeds. The so-called "Y" option.
"Giving us High Speed Rail connectivity – not just between London and Birmingham, but onwards to Leeds and Manchester. A strategic project that will make rail the mode of choice for most inter-city journeys within the UK, and for many beyond."
The route was chosen against a 'reverse S' shaped route from Birmingham to Manchester and then across the Pennines to Leeds. The Government's high speed advisory body HS2 said the Y network would deliver a total of £25bn more benefits than the reverse S.
The chosen network option will be included in the consultation on the Government's strategy for high speed rail, planned for the early part of 2011. Subject to the outcome of this consultation and further detailed work by HS2, there would then be a detailed consultation on the line of route for Leeds and Manchester.