The UK Government has confirmed its intention to open a section of the HS2 high-speed rail link between Fradley, West Midlands, and Crewe in 2027, six years ahead of schedule.
A public consultation has been launched on a long-term property compensation and assistance package for the Phase IIa route of the project.
The consultation will run until 25 February next year.
HS2 is part of the government’s plan to rebalance the UK economy and build a Northern Powerhouse by providing high-speed rail services from London to the Midlands and the North.
Chancellor George Osborne noted that bringing forward Phase IIa would support economic development and job creation under the Northern Powerhouse strategy.
The Phase IIa section will run from a connection with Phase I at Fradley near the Handsacre junction with the West Coast Main Line (WCML) to a new hub station at Crewe.
The opening of Phase IIa will follow the initial 190km Phase I from London to Birmingham and a junction with the WCML near Lichfield, which is scheduled to be completed by 2026.
The sections from Crewe to Manchester and the eastern branch to Sheffield and Leeds are expected to be opened in 2033.
Following the opening of phase II, journey time will be reduced to 3h and 38min, with a seamless transition of trains onto the East and West Coast main lines.
HS2 chairman Sir David Higgins said the construction of a further section of the HS2 to Manchester will be brought forward with the Crewe to Birmingham link now announced.
Crewe is a major interchange on WCML with services to Manchester, Liverpool, Chester, Stoke-on-Trent, Shrewsbury and stations in Wales.
UK Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has issued safeguarding directions for Phase IIa, to protect land from potential conflicting development and it follows the consideration of public responses to the November 2014 consultation on safeguarding this section of the route.
McLoughlin said: "HS2 will help rebalance our economy by providing more space on our crowded rail network, creating jobs and supporting business. Confirming that the route from the West Midlands to Crewe will open six years early is a major boost for the Midlands, Northern Powerhouse and beyond.
"HS2 is a transformational scheme and we are committed to helping those who are affected by it. That is why we are proposing a comprehensive package of compensation and assistance for homeowners along the route, which goes well beyond what we are required to do by law.
"I hope that confirmation of the Phase IIa route will also give communities the certainty they need to plan for the future and make the most of this vital railway."
Higgins noted that speeding up construction will help deliver further benefits to the north sooner, bringing more capacity and faster HS2 services to the north-west of England, including Crewe, Liverpool, Manchester and Scotland.
Earlier this month, the government invited small and medium-sized businesses in Scotland to bid for more than £10bn worth of contracts on offer with the HS2 rail project.