The much disputed plans for high-speed rail service HS2 gained cross-party backing this week, but if you've seen any of the media coverage, you'd be forgiven for thinking it total madness that anyone, let alone all three major political parties, could be in favour of the project.
For those unfamiliar, High Speed 2 was first proposed by the Labour government in 2009, and was revived after the Coalition came into being. The plans would see a 140-mile rail link built between London and Birmingham by 2026, cutting journey time to just 45 minutes, with trains travelling at speeds of up to 250mph.
A proposed second phase would link up with Manchester and Leeds by 2033, shaving an hour off Manchester-London and Birmingham-Leeds journey times, bringing all of England's first four cities within roughly an hour of eachother (an hour and 45 minutes for London-Leeds).
After going to public consultation last year, phase one of the plans has been given the go-ahead by the government this week, with Labour also coming out in favour of the plans.
Most of the press coverage has had one thing in common, aside from the inevitable railway headline pun, and that's that it is overwhelmingly negative. Sky's website was painted with a kaleidoscope of outrage within minutes of the announcement, whilst the BBC churned out article after article (pictured), reminding us of the £32bn cost, the disruption to our beloved British countryside, and the massive public opposition in affected areas - so far over 30 BBC articles have been penned about the plan in just four days. The Telegraph warns tens of thousands face years of disruption, the Mail that it has no place in a time of cuts, the Guardian that it's a 'recipe for disaster'.
It is clear, then, that the mainstream press have given a resounding 'No' to HS2, with just the Independent, historically in favour of large infrastructure projects, giving more optimistic coverage.
This should not be surprising - after all, what's a better story than an entire village potentially being forced out of their homes? A better picture than diggers churning up a village in idyllic British countryside as a photogenic family look on? HS2 being greenlit definitely ensures the media will have plenty of instant-outrage material for the next decade or two, and by coming out against it they've fired the starting gun.
The truth, though, is that any national infrastructure expansion will cost billions, run through greenfield sites, and potentially leave people displaced from their homes. Aside from re-opening failed railway lines exactly as they were, all expansion on such a scale, be it a motorway, railway, or airport, has a cost, and that is unavoidable.
For the press this means any expansion at all would provide outraged villagers to get material from, upset that it's their village being disrupted and not someone else's. Just as with the Thames Estuary airport controversy, nearly everyone involved agrees we need expansion somewhere; Heathrow and Gatwick are filling up, and our railways are nearly full, growing more congested, and failing to accommodate both passengers and freight. What people disagree on is the where and the how, with no perfect answer.
HS2 is not a perfect project; it's expensive, it doesn't benefit everyone, and it will undeniably cause disruption on a large scale. The benefits, however - a smaller Britain, reduced travel time, reduced rail congestion, job creation, and that it brings more economic benefit than its projected cost - far outweigh these. It is a rare moment when any proposal gets the genuine levels of cross-party support and cooperation that HS2 has received, and when even politicians can all agree that something is for the best despite the backlash, that's probably an indication it's worth having.
At this point it is almost guaranteed that, like it or not, we will be hearing about HS2 on a regular basis for at least the next fifteen years once it gets going, and that it will be either the biggest expansion of our generation or the most expensive flop. If the media continues to savage the project for a few easy wins, the more likely it is that more potent constructive criticism will be drowned out, and the more distant our high-speed future becomes.