Detailed plans to build a high-speed rail network in the UK will be announced next spring, transport secretary Andrew Adonis announced on Monday
A white paper, including details of timetable and funding, will be published by March 2010 if the government pursues proposals put forward by its advisers, he said.
The first north-south route will be London to the West Midlands and options for routes further north, including the North-west, the East Midlands, Yorkshire, the North-east and Scotland, are being explored. A full public consultation will be launched in autumn 2010.
Adonis also set out plans to electrify three major rail routes in the North-west to make rail travel faster and greener. The £200m programme will upgrade lines between Huyton and Wigan, Manchester and Euxton Junction and Blackpool North and Preston.
It comes on top of a £1.1bn programme to electrify the London to Swansea and Liverpool to Manchester lines, announced in July.
The minister was speaking as the first weekday services began on the high-speed Javelin train operation between Kent and London. It is the UK’s first full domestic high-speed service.