THE problem with HS2 is that it splits opinion in a similar manner to the way Brexit splits opinion.

There’s just no middle ground.

You are either passionately in favour of the HS2 project because you believe it will bring untold riches to the impoverished North or you are passionately against it because you believe it will just suck all the best talent to London and the South East while simultaneously destroying irreplaceable natural habits and ruining the lives of people whose homes and business are in its path.

Maybe you feel the billions that have already been spent could have been better spent elsewhere or maybe you feel that as a country we have failed to invest in our infrastructure since Victorian times and the cost of HS2 is simply the cost of doing business in the 21st century.

And one of the strange things about both Brexit and HS2 is you find yourself agreeing with some people whose views you normally despise (or at least don’t agree with).

It is a strange old world when I find the views of Jacob Rees-Mogg, Nigel Farage and the shadowy ‘think tank’ the TaxPayers’ Alliance are broadly in line with mine.

For heaven’s sake, I even found myself agreeing with Tatton MP Esther McVey who made scrapping HS2 one of her pledges as part of her ill-fated and short-lived bid for the Tory Party leadership, saying in The House magazine: “One of the many polarising political debates we have at the moment is HS2.

Knutsford Guardian:

Tatton MP Esther McVey

“Some see it as essential infrastructure to boost the northern economy; others see it as an expensive vanity project – a white elephant which is likely to suck further investment

into London at the expense of the north.

“I sit firmly in the latter camp; if I become Prime Minister, I will scrap it.

“This debate has been going on for a very long time.

“The Department for Transport and its attached bodies – including HS2 Limited – say the London to Birmingham line is exactly what we need.

“Anyone affected by the route, or who cares about the environmental impact, strongly disagrees.

“But over the last few months something has changed. Another debate has entered the picture, which is bigger and very relevant to our country’s future.

“Official estimates in 2015 put the cost of HS2 at a whopping £55.7 billion.

“If we are going to spend billions on our transport links for the next 30 years, is HS2 the right choice?”

Yes, I know I’ve written about HS2 on a number of previous occasions but I make no apologies for returning to the subject thanks to our new, glorious leader Boris Johnson (that’s sarcasm, by the way, before I get accused of being a Tory again. I don’t think he’s glorious in the slightest).

Anyway, among his latest populist moves, Mr Johnson has called for a full review of the entire HS2 project.

According to the BBC, the new Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps has said the review will be completed by the end of the year and then a ‘go or no-go’ will be made.

It will consider whether and how the project to connect London, the Midlands and northern England should proceed.

And despite the fact billions have already been spent, Mr Shapps has refused to rule out scrapping it entirely, saying it was ‘responsible’ to see whether the benefits really stack up.

Phase 1 of the development between London and Birmingham is due to open at the end of 2026, with the second phase to Leeds and Manchester scheduled for completion by 2032-33.

Now feel free to call me cynical here but doesn’t the proposed HS2 line run through or close to some key Tory marginal constituencies?

And isn’t there talk of a General Election in the air?

Maybe the General Election will be called before the outcome of the HS2 review is completed and published.

Maybe all those Cotswold constituencies where the locals are up in arms about the ecological damage being done to all the ‘bluebell woods’ and ‘ancient forests’ may feel they’ve been rescued by Mr Johnson and Mr Shapps.

And you don’t even have to go down to the Cotswolds to find opposition.

There are plenty of people in Cheshire who are bitterly opposed to HS2 and that surely hasn’t escaped the attention of Conservative Central Office.

I have no evidence this is a political ploy but it certainly feels like it.

I feel like we are being played, and not for the first time.

For the sake of balance, it’s appropriate to say that those in favour of HS2 rightly point to the lack of capacity on the West Coast Main Line and that the new high speed train will free up that line for better and more frequent trains.

I’ll believe it when I see it.