A rail passenger watchdog group has welcomed plans for a new £30 billion high-speed network, with a station set to open in Birmingham’s Eastside.

Anthony Smith, chief executive of rail customer watchdog Passenger Focus, said: "Passengers will welcome this bold plan. In the long-term, more and more people are going to want to use the railway.

"So, a step change in the ability of the network to handle more trains, longer trains and more reliable trains, all key passenger priorities for improvement, is needed now.

This plan represents an important first step in unlocking this potential, that should also free up more space on the rest of the network to handle more regional and local trains. More trains arriving on time are now helping to attract more passengers. Add higher speeds to that and a whole new group of passengers could be tempted to use rail."

He went on: "We welcome the commitment that the new line will be an addition to the current network - not a bolt on, rich man's railway. The ability to turn up and travel remains a key attraction of Britain's railway - this new line, with fast frequent services could, with attractive fares, start to revolutionise intercity rail travel.

"The other commitment, that funding will not be diverted from the existing network, is also welcome."

Stephen Joseph, executive director of Campaign for Better Transport, said the new development must not be the detriment of existing servies.

He added: "The last thing people want is service cuts, higher fares and more potholes, while the executive classes are treated to gleaming new high-speed trains.

"Even with extra money on the table, there must be a strategy to get people on to rail. The Government's plan is HSR plus business as usual. It will make no difference to carbon emissions, and could even make things worse.

"Fares must be cheaper than flying and driving and HSR must be an alternative to new motorways and airports."

Further plans announced today include a potential rapid transit link for pedestrians travelling to and from Euston and St Pancras stations in London, creating a new "rail super-hub" and making the Euston Road Europe's best connected street.

The proposals for Euston include new platforms below ground level, a remodelled and expanded Tube station and dedicated bus and taxi interchanges.

In Birmingham, the new HSR station would improve the interchange between New Street and Moor Street stations. The new hub would form the centrepiece of a major regeneration area in Eastside, near the old Curzon Street Station.

Lord Adonis said: "The time has come for Britain to plan seriously for HSR between our major cities. The high-speed line from London to the Channel Tunnel has been a clear success, and many European and Asian countries now have extensive and successful high speed networks. I believe HSR has a big part to play in Britain's future."

The Government proposes to secure the powers to deliver any high-speed network by means of a single Hybrid Bill. Depending on the outcome of consultation and Parliamentary timescales and approval, this should allow construction to start after the Crossrail scheme is completed from 2017, with the HSR network opening in phases from 2026.

The HS2 report found construction costs for major projects in the UK were higher than for comparable projects elsewhere in Europe.

Consequently, Infrastructure UK, the body set up to help ensure publicly-funded infrastructure is effectively prioritised and delivered, will work with the Department for Transport to consider whether and how construction costs can be reduced.

The Government said further work on HS2's cost estimates might be required following the completion of that work.

The Crossrail interchange station would be at Old Oak Common which would provide a connection to Heathrow airport through a direct link to the existing Heathrow Express rail line.

The Government also said further work was being carried out to assess options for a connection to the wider European HSR network, through either or both a dedicated rapid transport system linking Euston and St Pancras stations in London and a direct rail link to High Speed One, the London to Folkestone fast Channel Tunnel line.

>More: All our high speed rail articles

>More: The Dept for Transport High Speed Rail report plus documents