By politics.co.uk staff
The government has launched its consultation on its high-speed rail proposals.
The Y-shaped network from London to Birmingham, which will then branch off to Manchester and Leeds, will be completed in two phases under the Department for Transport's plans.
Full completion will not be achieved until 2032/33, but the London to Birmingham connection to the West Midlands is supposed to be finished by 2026.
It is the precise route of the latter, as well as the government's strategy for a wider network, which is being consulted on today.
Those who object to the route passing by their properties will have until July 29th to make their case to the government.
Officials pointed out that all but 1.2 miles of the route as it passes through the Chilterns area of outstanding beauty would be in either tunnels, in cutting or alongside the A413 main road.
Changes have already been made to around 50% of the route after transport secretary Philip Hammond visited the areas affected in the autumn.
It has been moved away from sensitive sites and settlements, the line has been lowered and green bridges and tunnels have been introduced to "reduce noise and visual impacts".
The government argues high-speed rail will bring around £27 billion of fare revenues over 60-year period, but will cost £32 billion to construct.
Ministers predict a further £44 billion of economic benefits, however.
"We must invest in Britain's future," Mr Hammond insisted.
"High-speed rail offers us a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform the way we travel in the 21st century and would help us build a modern economy fit for the future.
"Countries across Europe and Asia are already pressing ahead with ambitious plans for high-speed rail, while some of our key rail arteries are getting ever closer to capacity.
"We cannot afford to be left behind - investing in high-speed rail now is vital to the prosperity of future generations."
The government intends to legislate on the plans during the current parliament to allow construction to proceed. Journey times from Birmingham to London would be cut to under 50 minutes, while it would take just 80 minutes to get to Manchester and Leeds.