‘I can see why he’s angry!’ Andy Burnham backed by Bastani amid HS2 row

‘I can see why he’s angry!’ Andy Burnham backed by Bastani amid HS2 row
Georgia Pearce

By Georgia Pearce

Published: 28/09/2023

- 15:09

Updated: 28/09/2023

- 14:39

Left-wing commentator Aaron Bastani came to the defence of Manchester mayor Andy Burnham following suggestions Rishi Sunak could scrap HS2.

Speaking on Dewbs & Co, the Co-Founder of Novara Media was joined by Mail on Sunday Columnist Peter Hitchens to discuss the Labour politician's threat to take legal action if the rail project is scrapped.

Bastani said: "I think none of this makes any sense whatsoever. So you've had, for instance, the talk of freeports amongst Conservative ministers, particularly from Rishi Sunak when he was Chancellor. So what they're seemingly proposing there for is a Freeport in Liverpool.

“You have this wonderful new piece of infrastructure with lower labour regulation standards - which I don't agree with, but that's their that's their agenda - they have a majority, and you get your goods there. And then all of a sudden the train network, in order to get it to other parts of the country is going to be second rate.

“And I think what your viewers and listeners have to think about, is if someone's an investor and they're looking at Liverpool or Leeds or Manchester, are those cities more attractive to invest in than Bilbao, Leon, Marseille? Places with high-speed rail, very good labour markets, very smart, talented people willing to work hard. And I think that question of transport and high-speed rail or just rail in particular connections, is a huge one.”

Bastani continued: “And I think I really am very sympathetic to what Andy Burnham is saying, because without this, Manchester cannot be a Premier League, European city, which is what he wants it to be. It's going to really struggle, like I said, to compete with places like Turin or Milan or Bilbao, so I can understand why he's so angry. I don't think court's the way to go. I think we need to build a political consensus in this country across all parties about the need to build precisely this infrastructure.”

Host Michelle Dewberry then asked Hitchens for his view.

He replied: “I'm just completely puzzled as to why it should be a high-speed rail, a form of transport this country simply does not need. Look at the map of Great Britain in terms of the population and square mileage is much, much smaller than France where high speed rail has been reasonably successful, or Spain or Germany and its distances are much shorter.

“What this country needs and has not had since the government smashed it up in the 1960s is a decent low speed, medium speed rail system connecting everywhere in the country up in the way that it used to be and ought to be.”

Hitchens continued: “In fact, rail transport is ideal for our very our very tight, narrow countryside and our very close together cities in our highly developed country. And there's no point in trying to make trains run at 220, 240 miles an hour, which is by the way an immensely expensive part of the project. Digging the enormous tunnels necessary, making the making the levels as able to cope with it. It's a huge increase in spending. What we need is to restore what I call a low speed one, let's just say a proper railway system connecting everywhere which this country has not got.”

Watch the debate in full above.

Tune in to Dewbs & Co, Monday to Friday from 6pm, only on GB News.

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