Our own ConservativeHome Manifesto, published the best part of seven years ago, proposed scrapping HS2 entirely. Instead, the planned spending on the project would be re-directed to a new Northern Infrastructure Fund, providing core finance for a generational programme for transport and communication links between key urban centres.

The logic behind our view is that HS2 is the white elephant of white elephants – coming with environmental, visual and communal costs; that mid-to-late twentieth century technology may be out of date by the mid-to-late twenty-first, and that one doesn’t need a high speed service to update the West Coast main line.

A core criticism of the project has always been that – with specific reference to Phase One of the project, which will connect London to Birmingham – it will help prove the law of unexpected consequences: in other words, move money, people and work from the latter to the former rather than the other way round.

And all at humongous cost to the taxpayer.  Over ten years on from the Coalition’s HS2 decision to (which took up the Labour plan that the Conservatives previously opposed) the critics have been proved right on costs.  These were originally estimated to be £55 billion, but could now come in £98 billion – who knows?

Boris Johnson could have scrapped the scheme altogether before the last general election.  Or, were he really minded to bring high speed rail to the north, proceed first with Phase Two of the scheme, most of which would link Crewe and Manchester, and Birmingham and Leeds.

But such an upending ran into the objection of sunk economic costs: in other words, the work already undertaken on Phase One.  Though the sunk political costs may have been even more decisive.  Our columnist Andy Street is a convinced supporter of the HS2 plan, and there was no guarantee of his re-election.

The Mayor of the West Midlands is joined by a nexus of MPs, councils and other mayors, all of whom are for the scheme, which will certainly bring construction jobs to their areas.  The Prime Minister was never likely to take them on before his own election – and Street’s, for that matter.

He would have been sensitive to the claim that if he, the “Brexity Hezza”, U-turned on HS2 then any big future scheme he advanced – a land bridge to Ireland; his beloved new airport in the Thames Estuary, some Ozymandian space exploration enterprise – would be mocked out of its own headlines.

Nonetheless, I wrote then that Johnson “is bound to be asking some very hard questions. These will include: how many alternative schemes for the Midlands and North are anything like “shovel-ready”? If our aim is to ensure that Red Wall seats gain visibly by 2024, how many would do so, were HS2 to be scrapped?”

“For all these reasons, we suspect that the scheme will get the go ahead – perhaps with some fig leaf to hang over the rising costs; possibly with some apparent new gain for the North. And Street will sail towards his poll in May with a cracking chance of being re-elected.”

However, I noted that Department of Transport officials had previously mulled pulling Phase 2b, which would run HS2 from Crewe to Manchester and from the West Midlands to Leeds.  That would suit the institutional Treasury, which has always loathed the scheme.  And might suit Johnson, if money could be switched to schemes that deliver faster.

Much of this looks likely to happen.  We are set to have what one friend of ConHome described a year ago as “a very British solution – a half-built railway”.  Now, he has Sunak on his right hand, pleading cost.  And Grant Shapps, who understands the need to get infrastructure going fast, on his left.

The Prime Minister has delivered for Street.  So his main remaining political concern will be not pro-HS2 midlands and northern urban Labour councils, but pro-HS2 northern and midlands Conservative MPs.  They will be watching today’s announcement with eagle eyes.

There will be full electrification of the Midland Main Line from London St Pancras to Sheffield. There will be full electrification of the Transpennine main line. And there will be upgrades to the East Coast Main Line — things like removing level crossings that ministers say will reduce journey times to the north east.

The Politico Playbook claims this morning that three new high speed rail lines to be announced today. The first will apparently deliver part of Phase 2B – the Crewe and Manchester connection. The second will runs from Birmingham to the East Midlands Hub near Nottingham (but not all the way to Leeds as the original HS2 plan proposed).

The third will be the Northern Powerhouse Rail line between Leeds and Manchester, half of which will be a new high speed line, and the other half of which will consist of upgrades.  Elsewhere, Playbook reports full electrification of the Midland Main Line and the Transpennine main line, and upgrades to the East Coast Main Line.

The main loser, according to these reports, will be Bradford – which just happens, by remarkable coincidence, to have no Conservative seats.  All the same, keep an eye on the Tory MPs with seats that surround, and in some cases jut into, the Bradford/Leeds continuum, such as Shipley’s Philip Davies.

The sum of this takes me back to where I started: to ConHome’s own Northern Infrastructure Fund plan.  We wanted it without Phase One of HS2.  What the country looks set to get is spending on northern and midlands rail, unbadged, plus Phase One with all its costs and, in all likelihood, no substantial gains.

The headline on this site’s last editorial about HS2 was: “all aboard the Ninky Nonk”.  Our friend from In the Night Garden will travel at full speed from London to Birmingham (and the reverse, as I keep pointing out).  But north of Andy Street country it is set to peter out.

My snap take is that Johnson, having put electoral expediency first in 2019, is duly putting it first for 2024, too (or whenever the next election comes).  He wants diggers digging and chuggers chugging as soon as possible – which means making the best, in HS2’s case, of a bad job.