Sir David Rowlands, chair of High Speed Two (HS2), the Government-commissioned company drawing up plans for the multi-billion pound network, signalled a tough political battle ahead in deciding which cities would be included in the route.

His comments come days before HS2 is due to submit a detailed plan to the Department for Transport (DfT) for building a line which will allow 250mph trains to run between London and Birmingham.

The report, due by tomorrow, will also contain options for extending a high-speed network to Scotland, with a Y-shaped configuration, splitting north of the Midlands into two lines running separately to Edinburgh and Glasgow, likely to be recommended.

But he warned there were powerful interest groups forming which could potentially derail its potential. “There are a lot of local interest groups who want to be included in a high-speed network. If we’re not careful we could end up with a medium-speed network which doesn’t fulfil what it’s set out to do,” he told The Herald.

The blueprint has already prompted organised resistance from countryside residents of the Chilterns, west of London, including the author Sir Terry Pratchett, who was reported yesterday saying: “Bloody tin boxes going very, very fast don’t do anything for the countryside.”

But arguments about capping the number of stops en route to Scotland are likely to dominate the forthcoming decade. While journey times between Glasgow and Edinburgh to London could be cut to less than three hours, any additional stops would add 10 minutes on to the journey time, Sir David warned.

Sources at HS2 said there was a mismatch between the number of cities pushing for inclusion and those that had a high enough population density to justify a stop. Carlisle, in particular, has seen a vocal campaign but is at the centre of one of the most sparsely populated areas.

A number of senior figures in the rail industry have also questioned the aspirations of many of those lobbying for inclusion, warning that a significant number will have to be passed by if the network is to be effective.

Iain Coucher, chief executive of Network Rail, has sought to dampen expectations of how many cities could be included. “Our experiences and the experience around the world is that you should put at least 100 miles between stations,” he told New Civil Engineer earlier this year.

The formula developed by Network Rail, which has conducted its own 12-month study into high-speed rail options, would raise questions about a route which included Manchester, Preston and Carlisle along the west coast, or Sheffield, Leeds and Newcastle on an east coast route.

In Germany, local authorities have used their planning powers to force stations to be built along high-speed lines. Unlike France’s network, which runs only high-speed passenger trains, Germany allows slow trains and freight trains to use the network.

Because of the braking distance involved in stopping a high-speed train, including additional stops has a significant impact on overall journey time.

Another option is to build a spur connecting the main line to a city station so that some trains can pass by on a limited stop service. But those drawing up detailed plans for the network are understood to be against including too many spurs as this would reduce the number of trains operating per hour and damage the attractiveness of the service.

Lord Adonis, the UK Secretary of State for Transport, said earlier this year: “Clearly there are political and other factors to take into account. The key issue is the speed at which trains run.”

HS2’s plans include a new rail terminus in central London which will cater for around 18 trains per hour, each carrying more than 1000 passengers.