Instead, £20bn rail link from St Pancras to Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds would cut 60,000 flights a year

The Tories have announced that they will scrap the plans for Heathrow's third runway in favour of a £20bn rail link if they win the next election.

The 180mph rail link would run between London's St Pancras station and Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds and would cut 60,000 flights from Heathrow every year.

The Conservatives will announce more detailed plans at their party conference in Birmingham on Tuesday. The shadow transport minister, Theresa Villiers, told the government that the Conservatives would invest £15.6bn over 12 years and raise a further £4.4bn through the private sector.

Estimated journey times from London to Manchester would be cut from 125 minutes to 80 minutes, while the trip from Manchester to Leeds would be cut from 55 minutes to 17 minutes.

Villiers said that the decision to scrap the Heathrow expansion plans had been taken on environmental grounds.