Legislation for the first phase of the HS2 high-speed rail project has passed its final hurdle.
The parliamentary Bill to build the line from London to Birmingham received royal assent on Thursday, opening the way for construction work to begin.
It had more than three years of scrutiny, including a failed eleventh-hour bid to defeat it in the House of Lords last month.
Phase one of the £55.7 billion scheme is scheduled to open in December 2026, with a second Y-shaped phase launching in two stages.
Phase 2a from the West Midlands to Crewe will open in 2027 and phase 2b, from Crewe to Manchester and from the West Midlands to Leeds, South Yorkshire and the East Midlands, will begin operation in 2033.
Construction work on phase one is set to begin in the spring.
When the section is completed, it is expected to nearly triple the number of rush-hour seats on the route from 11,000 to about 30,000.
Joe Rukin, campaign manager at Stop HS2, claimed the parliamentary Bill receiving royal assent was 'a triumph of spin over evidence-based policy'.
He said: "This is a terrible project which will not deliver on its promises, come in years late, miles over budget, create havoc during construction and have disastrous environmental consequences.
"The fight against phase two of HS2 will continue."