HS2: Are critics 'bottles of scotch' or is the project 'for the birds'?

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Those who oppose the controversial HS2 rail link have been described as “bottles of scotch” in a discussion about the future of the project.

After Lord Tony Berkeley released a 70-page hard-hitting report which said Parliament was "seriously misled" over the costs of HS2, The Yorkshire Post’s political podcast, Pod’s Own Country, invited Henri Murison, Director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership - who backs the scheme - and Duncan Simpon, Research Director at the Taxpayers’ Alliance - who oppose the build - to debate the pros and cons.

Duncan Simpson, Research Director at the Taxpayers' Alliance (left) and Henri Murison, Director at the Northern Powerhouse Partnership (right).

Duncan Simpson, Research Director at the Taxpayers' Alliance (left) and Henri Murison, Director at the Northern Powerhouse Partnership (right).

Mr Murison admitted there had been problems with HS2 but said “there isn't another comparable project that has the same benefits”.

And he said he felt the Conservatives’ recent election wins in the North would mean Boris Johnson would be unlikely to scrap the project, even though some in his party - including Conservative Philip Davies - MP for Shipley - were against it.

Read more: Taxpayer on course to make £40 billion loss on HS2, according to report

Mr Murison said: “Critics like Philip and Lord Berkeley, I think I've described them as bottles of scotch on this topic. They've got very long held views. I'm a great friend of Philip’s, personally, I think he's great entertainment, but I fundamentally disagree with him on this.

“And he's always held these views, so none of this is about some great new revelations in terms of access to new evidence, these people always hated it.”

On Tuesday Mr Davies called on ministers to scrap HS2 and "ensure the money is spent on infrastructure projects across the North to benefit the regional economy” instead.

Read more: Former HS2 minister says link is 'vital' and partly blames campaigners for driving up the cost of the project by making houses unsellable

And his views were shared by Mr Simpson, who said there were other ways to ensure the North-South divide was closed.

He said: “We think there are numerous transport projects which could be done in place.”

He mentioned the electrification of East Coast and West Coast lines.

He said: “Personally my view and that of a TPA, is the idea that a small collection of politicians sitting down in London, surrounded by mandarins, have the knowledge and the wherewithal to deliver this on time and on budget is for the birds. We see that time and time again in any number of areas of Government spending.”

- To listen to the full discussion, listen to the Yorkshire Post's political podcast, Pod's Own Country, on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and wherever else you usually get your podcasts.