Rail journeys from London to Scotland could be cut to under three hours, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has said.
The £34 billion High Speed 2 scheme to northern England could be extended over the border, slashing times by about an hour.
But the project is mired in controversy for the Tory party, with parts of the line cutting through swathes of countryside in Conservative heartlands.
Mr McLoughlin promised compensation for people affected but insisted the massive scheme should go ahead.
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