New age of the railway: HS2 opponents ready for the fight

Campaigners intent on stopping the construction of Britain's new high speed rail system were gearing up for a fight today, after the route of the line was announced.

The Y-shaped line will cost £32.7 billion and have five new stations at Manchester, Manchester Airport, Toton in the East Midlands, Sheffield and in Leeds.

But it is facing strong opposition from MPs, local groups and conservationists.

"I know that this project is controversial. This is not about short-term popularity. It is about doing what is right for the country in the long-term," transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin said.

George Osborne is intent on pushing ahead with the scheme, especially after figures suggested Britain might already be in a triple-dip recession.

He admitted communities on the route would face "very difficult" disruption but that the economic benefits were "compelling".

The chancellor is likely to face protests in his Cheshire constituency of Tatton, where ancient parkland and National Trust properties might be affected by the route.

Former Welsh secretary Cheryl Gillan, who was reportedly dropped from the job while the prime minister enjoyed a glass of red wine, is seen as the leader of any rebellion against the plans in the Conservative parliamentary party.

Her Amersham and Cresham seat is on the route and the MP is under pressure to front the campaign against the development after she called it "the wrong railway in the wrong place at the wrong time and for such a high cost".

She added: "That allows me to almost go back to my roots, if you like, and to speak out about something that is affecting my constituents and my constituency, and that is this terrible HS2 project which the prime minister and my cabinet colleagues have known of my complete opposition to for a long time".

The government is already waiting on the result of five separate judicial reviews challenging the southern portion of the route – especially the Chiltern Hills, an area of outstanding natural beauty.

Other judicial reviews centre on cost and environmental impact.

Cameron will host a Cabinet meeting in the north of England today before ministers fan out for a series of mini-announcements.

The timing has been carefully calculated to cement the impression of a government investing in capital infrastructure projects and to counter accusations HS2 is a London-centric project.

The northern portion of the 'Y' shape will connect Birmingham with Manchester and Leeds by 2033.