In his speech to the CBI conference, David Cameron will today say that critics of High Speed Rail 2 are resigned to leaving Britain in “the slow lane” and that they “are betraying everyone north of Watford”. Leaving to one side the lack of lanes on railways, the prime minister is trying to make two arguments about the controversial scheme. The first is that this is the type of bold projects that bold countries embark upon. The second is that the new fast railway line would help bridge (sorry) the “North-South divide”.  Read more

There is no obvious middle ground between building all of HS2 and not building all of HS2. The estimated benefits are higher over time and the further it goes towards Manchester and Leeds. And if the money is not spent on HS2 a large share of it will still have to go on increasing capacity. So far at least the opposition has accepted the argument that HS2 is the best way to do that.  Read more

Reading the latest government-sponsored report on the benefits of the High Speed 2 railway brought to mind the louche, smoky genius of Isambard Kingdom Brunel. The engineer was much more than a salesman but he had a talent for persuading sceptics of the necessity of his dreams. This month, the coalition government is busy reasserting the case for the HS2 project, which has come in for criticism for its rising costs and dodgy evidence base. George Osborne and Nick Clegg have spoken in favour. But HS2 could do with a Brunel. Read more

In 1987, Michael Heseltine observed that “the Treasury never sleeps”. He might have added that it therefore never dreams. Read more