Futuristic trains 'will slash journey times and boost the economy'
Trains travelling at up to 250mph on purpose-built lines will slash journey times between London, Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester;
The Government claims the £32.7 billion HS2 rail line will deliver economic benefits worth £47 billion, creating 100,000 jobs;
Ministers say existing rail connections to the capital will be too crowded to cope by the time HS2 opens. They believe road congestion will also be cut as freight trains replace lorries on newly-vacant rail routes to the capital;
Construction on the London-Birmingham phase is expected to begin in 2017 and should be completed by 2026;
Legs to Manchester and Leeds will start being built in the middle of the next decade, with the line open by 2032;
The second phase will include stations near Nottingham and Meadowhall shopping centre in Sheffield en route to Leeds, while the London-Manchester route cuts through Staffordshire;
More than 70 campaign groups, at least 18 councils and a growing number of Conservative MPs are opposing HS2, which they believe will destroy countryside and provide no benefit to rural areas;
Critics say the Government cannot afford HS2, while some experts say high speed links in other countries – including a Seville/Madrid service in Spain – have benefited capital cities more than the outlying areas they link to.