HS2 would be built from north to south if Transport Secretary Grant Shapps was in charge of developing plans a decade ago, he has claimed.
In his current role he examined whether construction could start in the North but it was “impossible” due to progress already made, Mr Shapps said.
He told the Great Northern Conference 2020: “If I had my time and I had been there at the beginning 10 or 15 years ago when this was being invented, I would have built it north to south.
“When I looked at this, it was impossible to undo because the land had been bought, a lot of work had been started and we sort of are where we are.”
Mr Shapps insisted “we’re getting the job done as quickly as possible”.
HS2 minister Andrew Stephenson “ensures that we’re holding the feet to the fire of those producing this extraordinary new line, every single day, in order to press down on timescales as well as cost”, Mr Shapps added.
Construction work started last month on phase one of HS2 from London to Birmingham.
Phase 2a is planned to run from Birmingham to Crewe, and Phase 2b from Crewe to Manchester, and from Birmingham to Leeds.
The Government-commissioned Oakervee Review warned last year that the final bill for HS2 could reach £106 billion at 2019 prices.
Despite it running tens of billions of pounds over budget and several years behind schedule, Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave the green light for the railway in February 2020.