HS2 eastern leg scrapped: Trains don't do U-turns but governments do - just not at high speed

ITV Central News Correspondent Mark Gough reports on what happened in 2019 when he first heard the eastern leg would be scrapped

I said the eastern leg was dead just over two years ago.

It was on October 10, 2019 that a contact close to HS2 called me at 6am and said: "HS2 eastern leg is dead in the water - scrapped."

"What?" I said.

This was huge. I had to set about getting it confirmed (unlikely though official channels) or corroborated (much easier). I called a second contact to corroborate the story.

I put them on speakerphone, they confirmed to my editor and me that it was indeed the case that HS2 to Leeds was being scrapped - it was too expensive.

We grilled them repeatedly, going into fine details, confirming time and time again that we would be correct in broadcasting HS2 eastern leg would be scrapped.

"You wouldn’t be wrong in saying that," they said.

What followed was nothing short of extraordinary. We tweeted our exclusive, the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps tweeted we were wrong.

My contact who confirmed it rang me back immediately - they were dumbfounded.

They were sure in their conviction that it was being scrapped.

When the review was finally published the government did give qualified backing to the eastern leg, but many rail insiders still doubted it would ever happen.

And here we are two years on and it has been scrapped.

HS2 will not go to Leeds as promised. Yes, the north will get rail improvements as part of today's announcement, but it won't get HS2.

Today, the Prime Minister said of the original plans: "The old plans got the balance wrong. They focused too much on showpiece, high speed links.

"Some have demanded that we rigidly stick to the old plans, however long they take."

This government has rigidly stuck to the plans since the original cost estimate of £33bn to the latest estimate which had ballooned to £106bn.

Trains don't do U-turns. It turns out governments do. Not at high speed, but U-turns nonetheless.