Last week, Solihull Council debated HS2. It was the stuff of history, and there was a lot of it about.
One Conservative recalled the digging of those new-fangled canals, and Councillor Meeson, the leader, re-lived his last journey on public transport. What a vivid impression had been made by the fumes, the ash, and the chuffing noise, though we were left to guess whether they were from the locomotive or the passengers. It started to look as if the Transport Secretary, Philip Hammond, was right after all: HS2 would be a pleasant surprise.
Party point-scoring soon came to the fore, but the Conservatives didn’t seem to favour conserving anything, the Labourites couldn’t think of any jobs that actually needed doing, and the Lib Dems kept a straight face while promoting a railway for a tiny elite opposed by 94 per cent of residents. At least the Greens could be honest: HS2 is planned to hit the buffers somewhere in the backstreets of Birmingham, and is completely useless for reaching their roosting areas in the fabled lands beyond Wolverhampton.
For Coun Hill, the project held out the prospect of barricades and blood in the streets, while Coun Rushen stood mesmerised, his eyes like saucers, seeing not Madam Mayor, but the mirage of a toyshop window containing the biggest and fastest train in the world.
Then rose the leader of the Lib Dems, Coun Hedley himself. Perhaps unused to people listening to him, he fell prey to an unguarded moment, and let slip his bedroom window would be within sight and sound of the Horror Story Railway. A stunned silence was succeeded by the rejoicing of his enemies. It would be hard for the Lib Dems to find another meeting room of suitable size, and Coun Hedley might even emigrate. Suddenly, HS2 wasn’t such a bad idea after all. In principle. Conditionally.
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