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It was the sight of the first Eurostar gliding into London’s Waterloo station in 1994 that started the political row about fast trains. The gleaming, bullet-nosed Alstom locomotive was as sexy a piece of Gallic engineering as ever sashayed down a Paris catwalk, and a world away from the frumpy toy train legacy of British Rail rolling stock. Since then, a political consensus has demanded more infrastructure. Billions were set aside for gleaming steel roads from London to the North, but suddenly and unexpectedly, high-speed rail seems like yesterday’s fashion.

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