The history of Britain with regard to major transport infrastructure projects is far from inspiring. Proposals for new airports, roads, and railways tend to revolve around long-running arguments about environmental issues rather than any benefits they might bring to the economy.
With this in mind the Government cannot have been surprised at the less than enthusiastic reaction to its plans for a second high speed rail route linking London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds.
As a Post survey demonstrates today, Ministers have some way to go if they are to convince sceptical taxpayers that the £17 billion line to Birmingham and the £32 billion network is either value for money or necessary in these straightened times.
As a consultation exercise into the scheme continues, it is up to the Government to make the case far more strongly for HS2 and to answer questions about passenger figures and projected economic benefits which, on the face of it, appear to be inflated.
It is vital also for the debate to be re-focused on the strategic importance to the country of high speed rail, since the Government’s case that the project will help close the north-south wealth gap by creating thousands of new jobs seems to have been forgotten in the clamour to protect the countryside.