A new high-speed rail network featuring 250mph trains is being announced by the UK Government.
But it is only confirmed to stretch as far north as Birmingham and is likely to be 2025 before it is completed. There is widespread disquiet in Scotland that the line will not stretch any further north despite a £16billion price tag.
The rest of the route to Scotland is likely to take the total cost up to £30billion and will be given in outline only when Westminster Transport Secretary Lord Adonis announces the plans on Thursday.
Lord Adonis says that the London to Birmingham section of the route will run from a point close to Euston station in London.
As far as high speed rail north of Birmingham is concerned, it is believed that Lord Adonis could well support the creation of two high-speed forks - one going through the East Midlands to Leeds, the other travelling to Manchester and north west England.
Conservative Shadow Transport spokeswoman at Westminster, Theresa Villiers, said: "Labour have got it wrong for the economy and wrong for the environment. Their line to Birmingham leaves the North, Scotland and Wales out of the massive social, economic and regeneration benefits of high speed rail."
Network Rail chief executive Iain Coucher said: "There is now a broad political consensus that Britain must have an HSR (High Speed Rail) future. High-speed is a vital part of a modern, dynamic economy. By slashing journey times, HSR can drive economic growth and boost jobs.
"It would also take cars and lorries off the road, cut domestic flights and release capacity on the existing rail network, transforming services even for those communities not served directly by a high-speed line. It is the low-carbon, sustainable transport of the future."
Mr Coucher said Network Rail would examine the Government plans in detail to see how the proposals would expand the network.
He added: "The railway is a system and we will work with the Government to understand how high-speed lines can be developed to make the best use of capacity of the entire network."
The plans, which will now go out to consultation, have been informed by the report, also being published today, from the Government-commissioned body High Speed Two (HS2).
This organisation has completed a costed, highly detailed plan for a London to Birmingham HSR route, with options for taking HSR north to Scotland. HS2's report envisages 1,100-seater trains with, initially, 14 trains an hour running between London and Birmingham, increasing to 18 an hour if the HSR network is extended beyond Birmingham.
Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT union, said: "We welcome any move to expand the rail network and to bring more passengers on to the trains. However, development of HSR in the UK has been left in the slow lane because of our fragmented, privatised system which puts short-term profits first and long-term, strategic planning a very poor second.
"It is also important that the politicians realise that expanded and upgraded railways require a highly skilled workforce to deliver these projects. That is why it makes no sense for Network Rail and companies like Balfour Beatty and Babcock Rail to be dumping staff on the dole queue."