Changes to the route of the £50 billion High Speed 2 project north of Birmingham cannot be ruled out, the Government has announced.

The first phase of HS2 will run between London and Birmingham with the second phase heading north to Manchester and another line to Yorkshire.

Changes to this second phase could include the section from Fradley near Lichfield to Crewe - a stretch recommended last week by HS2 Ltd chairman Sir David Higgins.

Today, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin announced the launch of a nine-week consultation on safeguarding directions for this Fradley to Crewe leg.

Safeguarding ensures that land identified for big projects is protected from conflicting development.

The Fradley to Crewe section is part of the Y-shaped phase two route for HS2 which will see two lines taken from Birmingham to Manchester and to Leeds via the East Midlands and Sheffield.

This second part is due for completion in around 2033.

Mr McLoughlin said today: "Other destinations served by the proposed HS2 phase two route, on both the eastern and western side of the country, should be reassured that we continue to be committed to a Y shaped HS2 network delivered as quickly as possible.

"Decisions on the phase two route will be taken when the necessary analysis has been completed and my department continues to carefully review the material submitted by consultees and the further work undertaken by HS2 Ltd."

He added: "While we work towards finalising a route for phase two, I cannot rule out the possibility of needing to make changes to the route, including from Fradley to Crewe.

"But in the interests of ensuring the timely and economic delivery of phase two, I must consider protecting that part of the route from conflicting development in the meantime.

"Making safeguarding directions would also trigger the entitlement for affected owner-occupiers to ask the Government to buy their property under statutory blight arrangements."