Families and businesses affected by plans to build a high speed rail network between London and Birmingham face fresh uncertainty after the Government announced a new review of the proposed route.
Transport Secretary Philip Hammond said he wanted to review in detail the route announced last year.
His announcement was welcomed by MPs representing constituencies affected by the proposed route, who said they would campaign to ensure the impact on residents was reduced.
He also ordered consultants to draw up plans to take high speed trains directly to Heathrow Airport, and to link the planned network to the Eurostar services to the Continent - options which had been ruled out by the previous Government.
And Mr Hammond said there would be a review of the best way to extend services beyond Birmingham.
This could mean sending trains to Manchester and then east across the Pennines to Leeds, he said. Alternatively, two lines could be built from Birmingham, one heading north to Manchester and the other going north east, directly to Yorkshire.
The Secretary of State announced the changes in a letter to Sir Brian Briscoe, chairman of High Speed Two Ltd, a company set up by the previous Government to draw up detailed plans for a high speed network.
It published a report in March, but Conservatives said at the time that they would not be bound by the findings because their proposals for high speed rail were significantly different to Labour’s.
In particular, they wanted the rail network to function as an alternative to a third runway at Heathrow, which the new Government has blocked.
But while Labour, Conservatives and Liberal Democrats all agreed that a high speed line between London and Birmingham was needed, Mr Hammond said he “will wish to review in more detail” the route recommended by High Speed Two Ltd.
As a result, a public consultation on the London to Birmingham route, which was due to begin this autumn, has now been delayed until January.
The March report set out detailed plans for a route through the Chilterns and into Warwickshire. It would run close to the A452 and head to a location east of the National Exhibition Centre.
It showed the line continuing past Birmingham towards Lichfield, in Staffordshire, where it will connect to the West Coast Main Line.
But residents in parts of Warwickshire and Staffordshire have launched campaigns against the plans, saying the services will destroy in the quality of life in nearby towns and villages. Owners of businesses in Birmingham, who will be affected by the construction of a line between the NEC and a new Curzon Street station in Birmingham city centre, have also warned that they could lose their livelihoods.
MPs in the constituencies affected - overwhelmingly Tory since the General Election - have backed campaigns to change the route.
Tamworth MP Chris Pincher (Con), said: “If the line happens as set out in the first report then it will mean knocking down a number of homes in my constituency.
“Even if it doesn’t happen it will cause blight for many residents while it is on the cards.
“I am pleased that the Secretary of State is reviewing the route and, along with colleagues, I will do everything in my power to ensure the route is changed.”