The much-delayed and overbudget scheme is for a rail line linking some of the country’s largest cities, intended to connect London, the Midlands and the north of England, with construction split into three phases.
Downing Street was evasive when approached for comment – but refused to deny discussions were taking place. Our story even appeared to be news to HS2’s project managers, as well as the Department for Transport.
The next day, the rest of the press pack caught up. The prime minister’s spokesperson was subjected to relentless in-person questioning at a regular briefing of political journalists in Westminster.
Still, No 10 would not deny the discussions had taken place. Other newspapers began to pick up the story.
Pressure started to grow: Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham was first out the gate, blasting the government: “Levelling up, my a***!” he said. It set the tenor of the rest of the reaction.
George Osborne was the next Tory big beast to weigh in. He took to the airwaves to warn that the prime minister was making a mistake.
Over the following days, he was joined by former Tory prime ministers Boris Johnson and David Cameron, as well as the government’s own infrastructure tsar.
Other mayors including London’s Sadiq Khan joined in, urging the PM to keep the project on track. Businesses groups warned it would be a betrayal to abandon work now, with some signing a joint letter.
Mr Hunt finally broke his silence more than a week after the original story, on Thursday. The chancellor said HS2 costs were “spiralling out of control” – his strongest hint yet that a cut was being considered.
The Independent this weekend further revealed a decision on the line is due before Tory conference – this coming week.
The prime minister is said to be considering a delay, rather than a cut to the project, spooked by the reaction to this newspaper’s revelations.
Westminster now awaits his decision.