UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown has announced plans to open direct rail links between London and other European cities.
Rail tracks would be laid beyond Paris, Brussels and Lille, up to Cologne and Amsterdam.
Under the plans, which are expected to be set out shortly, UK cities other than London would also be part of the network, making the UK a key junction of the continent.
"Let me tell you what we could ultimately achieve: a European network of train services that takes us quickly not just to Paris and Brussels but quickly to Cologne and Amsterdam," Brown said.
"And one that starts not just in London but in the north of our country."
Speaking at the Confederation of British Industry annual conference, Brown also said a new company would be created to deliver high-speed rail links between the north and south, which would cut the journey time from London to Scotland to just three hours.