Opponents and supporters of high speed rail are fighting a bitter war of attrition in a propaganda battle over the most significant public transport plan for a generation, reports Public Affairs Correspondent Paul Dale.
On the face of it, the facts appear to be straight forward.
The Department for Transport is proposing to build Britains second high speed rail route, initially from London Euston to a new station in Birmingham, and eventually onwards with a Y-shaped track extending to Manchester and Leeds.
The cost of building the London-Birmingham line is estimated at just over s17 billion, with an opening date of 2026. Constructing the entire Y-shaped track would cost s33 billion at todays prices.
Running costs over 60 years would be s44 billion, less s27 billion from estimated fares revenue, leaving a net cost of s17 billion.
So far, so simple. Except that nothing, absolutely nothing, is simple or indeed unchallenged in the HS2 debate.
The cost is an obvious bone of contention. Since when did any UK public transport project come in on budget and why is the Government determined to invest so much when widespread public spending cuts are the order of the day?
Popular opinion has it that most HS2 opponents are the super-wealthy from Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire villages close to the proposed route for the 225 mph trains the well-heeled Squirearchy, as Birmingham Airports director of government Affairs, John Morris put it.
And while it is true that a highly organised and well-funded campaign has sprung up in the Home Counties, opposition is also strong in Warwickshire, Staffordshire, Coventry and even Worcestershire, where many people see little benefit for themselves from a high speed rail service where trains stop only at Birmingham Airport and Birmingham city centre.
Lobby group HS2AA, an alliance of anti-high speed rail organisations, is challenging almost every aspect of the DfTs business case which, it says is deeply flawed.
Jerry Marshall, chairman of Action Groups Against High Speed Two (AGAHST) claims that the actual net benefit return for Government investment in HS2 is a miserly 30p in the pound rather than the s1.60 claimed by the DfT. He points out, somewhat gleefully, that even the DfT started with a far higher figure of s2.40 but was forced to scale down when the original calculations were shown to be over-optimistic.
The 30p figure, it should be noted, has been calculated by HS2AA. As ever with this debate, it depends on estimates of how many people will use HS2.
Mr Marshall says DfT forecasts that demand for long distance rail travel bear no relation to past experience.
He contends that figures produced by Birmingham City Council and Centro, claiming that 54,000 people a day will use HS2 services from Eastside and Birmingham Airport are ridiculous.