Everyone supports high speed rail in principle. When Lord Adonis announced plans for a new London to Birmingham route last week, opposition parties scrambled to insist that their version of a high speed line would be even better than his.
Labour, Conservatives and Liberal Democrats are competing to prove that their vision of a high speed network is the most ambitious. Nobody seems to think it is a bad idea.
That’s the national picture. But the story changes when you look at individual constituencies.
There, MPs are launching campaigns to protect local residents from the noise, inconvenience and falling property prices that will inevitably result from having high speed rail on their doorstep.
Perhaps they can’t be blamed, as MPs (and would-be MPs) ought to listen to the concerns of their constituents.
But it suggests there will be a long and protracted series of disputes ahead, as a high speed line is certain to affect the standard of living of the people around it.
Even if politicians and residents succeed in changing the planned route, it will probably just mean that a different set of people are affected instead.
One can’t build any major project without making sacrifices, and the benefits of high speed rail will be immense.
But they are not always obvious. As Lichfield MP Michael Fabricant points out, his constituents will actually be able to get to London more quickly on the conventional lines they already use, rather than heading to Birmingham and changing trains there.
One might balance this against the benefits to his Staffordshire constituency resulting from a high speed line which will boost the regional economy, not just in Birmingham but across the West Midlands.
But this is a long-term and perhaps nebulous prospect, of little comfort to people who fear their home is dropping in value today.
If the Conservatives form a Government, of course, we may have to go through all this again, as their high speed line may not follow the same route as that proposed by Labour.
The sorry saga of Birmingham City University’s planned city centre campus epitomises the problem.
It was due to become the heart of a major transformation of Birmingham’s Eastside area and to transform the fortunes of the university, which currently lacks the prestige of Aston or Birmingham University but has ambitious plans to change all that.
Who exactly is running Birmingham? The city council and Advantage West Midlands, the regional development agency, were firmly behind the proposals, but the Government and High Speed 2 inquiry have scuppered them.
There’s been some criticism of the Government for saying it won’t start building the new line for many years (2019 is the actual start date for construction).
But perhaps it will be lucky if it has ironed out all the wrinkles before then.
High speed rail is designed partly to reduce the need for car and plane use and in it sums up the problem with many “green” initiatives.
Plenty of people like the idea of renewable energy, for example, but they don’t like wind farms destroying the view from their window.
It’s worth noting, of course, that some environmentalists argue high speed rail will actually harm the planet if it only takes in London and Birmingham, because it consumes more energy than conventional services. The ecological benefits emerge if the service heads further north.
The theory behind a high speed rail line and what it looks like in practice may be different in many ways. Lord Adonis fought to win the support of Cabinet for his high speed dream, but his battles have only just begun.