Last year, Philip Hammond, astounded the Transport Select Committee by saying that the railways were a rich man’s plaything, and a factory worker from Manchester would never use HS2.
Yesterday’s Daily Politics featured a film by another rich man, Pete Waterman, who likes railways as playthings.
Pete started his film by referring to the job he started in 1962 – fifty years ago – in a steam railway maintenance yard, before electrification, when Britain’s railways were steam railways.
Most people who hanker after the days of steam do so in preservation railways, treating steam trains as a nostalgic look at the past, separate from real life.
Not Pete, who complained in the debate afterwards about inadequete information from Network Rail so that he could run steam trains on the Network Rail tracks. That’s right, Pete wants HS2 so he can play with steam trains on the real railway network which ordinary people use.
Of course in the Sixties, railway electrification changed things (but why are they still waiting in Wales?). But the Sixties are history now.
It’s the 21st century. We are in the midst of a new revolution – the digital revolution. Digital technology is changing all sorts things: the BBC4 program How the Brits rocked America: Go West shown earlier this week, described how even the music business, where Pete made his millions, has been revolutionised by the internet.
When future historians look back at the 21st century, they will know what was revolutionary in 21st century: and it won’t be a new railway no matter how fast it goes.
PS We’re not trying to compete in the music business against Pete Waterman, but you can still buy the Stop HS2 protest song Oak Tree Lament by Dirty Mavis.