HS2 will go ahead as planned - and construction could even start in the North and the South at the same time, the Transport Secretary has said.
In an exclusive interview, Patrick McLoughlin said there would be up to seven construction teams on Phase 2 - the ‘Y’ route north of Birmingham - and one of them could start in Leeds.
It would head south and potentially link Sheffield to high speed rail earlier than planned.
He also addressed fears the £55bn scheme could be axed due to a post-Brexit decline in the country’s fortunes.
Mr McLoughlin said the high speed rail project was set to cost about £3bn-a-year over 20 years - compared to £700bn-a-year total government spending.
HS2 Ltd last week published a report recommending trains serve Sheffield city centre on a loop using existing tracks, while the proposed mainline is set to be shifted east away from Meadowhall to run through Conisbrough in Doncaster.
Mr McLoughlin, MP for the Derbyshire Dales, said: “I don’t know why some people think it’s not going to happen. We’re making good progress with London to Birmingham. I believe HS2 will be completed as stated.
“£2bn-a-year is not a huge proportion of government annual expenditure and it’s very important for the future of the country. Fortunately the Prime Minister and Chancellor ‘get’ the importance of infrastructure in creating jobs and opportunities.”
London to Birmingham would be operating in 10 years, he added.
“Then we should be looking at options for Phase Two, including construction in Leeds and Warwickshire at the same time, we will have up to seven different teams on it.”
The new recommended route was published after a campaign by The Star, Sheffield City Council and the Chamber.
Mr McLoughlin said: “I knew what was happening in Sheffield, the new route addresses some of the issues. The way it ties in with Leeds and gives a stop at Chesterfield has positives.”