Ministers will attempt to head off a rebellion against controversial plans for a new high speed rail line between London and Birmingham at a crunch meeting with MPs next week.
New Transport Secretary Justine Greening has invited angry backbenchers to meet her next Monday as she prepares to publish the findings of a consultation into plans to run trains at 225mph to Birmingham.
The announcement, in mid-December, is expected to confirm that Ministers will press ahead with the £17 billion line from London to Birmingham, which will eventually stretch to Leeds and Manchester at a total cost of £32 billion.
But Ministers are braced for opposition from MPs in constituencies affected by the line, who have been given fresh hope by the findings of a Commons inquiry.
A report by the Commons Transport Committee offered only lukewarm support to the high speed rail proposal, known as HS2.
The inquiry said the Government should avoid making a decision on the London to Birmingham line until it had published full details of the planned routes from Birmingham to the North East and North West - which could mean a lengthy delay.
The Committee also urged the Government to consider building a much slower line, with strains potentially running at just 150 mph, because this would make it easier to design a route which avoided built up areas.
Ms Greening, who became Transport Secretary last month, said in a Commons statement: “My Department received around 55,000 responses to the consultation and an analysis of them has been undertaken. I am being provided with detailed information on the issues raised. This will provide me with extensive evidence in respect of all the issues that will affect my decision.
“A number of colleagues have understandably requested meetings regarding HS2 and I believe it is important that that there should be an opportunity for me to hear directly from MPs on their views about HS2. Given that the consultation has closed, due process means it would not be proper for me to respond to any substantive points that are made at this meeting.”
Critics of the scheme include Michael Fabricant (Con Lichfield), who has written to Ms Greening urging her to “think again”.
Birmingham City Council claims HS2 services and the planned new station at Curzon Street will help regenerate the eastern part of Birmingham city centre. The West Midlands Integrated Transport Authority (Centro) commissioned a study from KPMG which concluded that HS2, plus a programme of regional rail enhancements, would increase economy in the West Midlands by £1.5 billion, the equivalent of a £300 rise in average wages.