A £30 billion high-speed rail network should be a “national cause”, Lord Adonis said on Thursday as he outlined plans to transform transport in Britain.
The Transport Secretary told peers work on the first stage of a national network would not begin until 2017, linking London and Birmingham with a line capable of carrying trains reaching 250mph.
Future plans would create a y-shaped, 335-mile network stretching north from Birmingham to population centres either side of the Pennines and in Scotland.
In a statement to the House of Lords, the Transport Secretary said the proposals would slash journey times from London to Birmingham to between 30 and 50 minutes.
Lord Adonis said: “High speed rail is a policy of huge strategic significance for the country.
“The time has come to create a credible plan, and for this to be a national cause.”
The proposed route would not include a station at Heathrow, as the Tories have called for, instead favouring an interchange with London’s Crossrail network which would run direct services to the airport taking 11 minutes.
But Lord Adonis said Tory former transport secretary Lord Mawhinney would examine whether there was a strategic case for a Heathrow station.
He said: “A complex decision of this nature should not be taken in a knee-jerk fashion but after a full analysis of the facts and opinions.”