The government has confirmed its preferred route for the second phase of the HS2 rail development north of Birmingham.

Transport secretary Chris Grayling confirmed that the high-speed line would run in a “Y-shape” between Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield and the East Midlands.

Grayling said that the second phase of the HS2 line would reduce travel times between Birmingham and Manchester from the current 80 minutes to 40 minutes. This part of the line is due to be operational in 2033.

“Britain’s new railway line will bring huge economic benefits across the country and help ensure this government delivers on its promise to spread wealth beyond London and the south-east,” said Grayling.

“By building a whole new railway line for high-speed intercity connections, we will free up local services, meaning more comfort, more seats and more trains for passengers across the north and the Midlands.

“We will now press ahead with building the line, while continuing to ensure affected communities get appropriate support and are treated with fairness, compassion and respect.”

The planned route for HS2’s second phase will require the demolition of 16 houses in Mexborough, South Yorkshire.

The government has also announced the awarding of £6.6 billion worth of contracts to build the first phase of HS2 between London and Birmingham, which is due to open by 2026.

The main construction work for the London-Birmingham phase of HS2 is due to start in 2018/19 “following a period of detailed design work”.

Rob Gill