UK rail operator Network Rail has announced plans to build a £34bn high-speed rail line from London to Scotland, which could halve travel time to just over two hours.

The new 200mph rail line would run from London to Manchester in the north west, where it would then split towards Glasgow and Edinburgh taking just 1hr 06mins.

A Network Rail study concluded that a diverging high-speed line to the centre of Birmingham would offer the best route.

The line will then continue to Preston (1hr 13mins), with a diverging high-speed line to Warrington (1hr 06mins) and Liverpool (1hr 23mins), and then northwards splitting to go directly to Glasgow (2hrs 16mins) and Edinburgh (2hrs 9mins).

Network Rail chief executive Iain Coucher said that the high-speed rail will promote economic growth, regeneration and social inclusion.

“It is a low-carbon option – cutting domestic flights and taking cars and lorries off the road. It will release capacity on the existing rail network and revolutionise passenger journeys,” Coucher said.

“Demand for rail travel is growing and our main lines from the north to London are nearly full.”

Up to 16 trains an hour would run on the line from London to Scotland and four trains an hour between regional cities.

According to the report the line would generate nearly £55bn and pay for itself 1.8 times over.