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The international definition of high-speed rail embraces new lines with a top speed of at least 250 km/h (155 mph) and existing lines with a top speed of around 200 km/h (124 mph). As of 2011, there are four "classic" main railway lines in Britain operating at up to 125 mph (201 km/h), plus 108 km (70 mi) of purpose-built high-speed line.The first purpose-built high-speed rail line in Britain was the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, the first section of which opened in 2003. The building of the line (re-branded "High Speed 1" in 2006) provoked discussion in the national media and specialist rail circles on the merits of constructing further high-speed lines. A second purpose-built high-speed line is now planned by the government — High Speed 2 — which will connect London with Birmingham, and at a later phase cities in northern England (including Manchester, Sheffield and Leeds). Alongside this scheme, are plans by the Scottish Government to build a high-speed rail line between Edinburgh and Glasgow, to open by 2024.
At present, a mixture of 300 km/h (186 mph) Eurostar international services and 225 km/h (140 mph) Southeastern domestic passenger services use High Speed 1. Attempts to increase speeds to 140 mph (225 km/h) on the East Coast Main Line (ECML) and West Coast Main Line (WCML) have both failed, partly because trains that travel above 125 mph (201 km/h) are considered to require in-cab signalling for safety reasons. The term High Speed Train (or HST125) is currently also used as a brand name for the present British fleet of Class 43 125 mph (201 km/h) InterCity diesel trains.