HS2 ruling 'a victory' despite unlawful compensation move

HS2 image HS2 is due to carry 400m-long (1,300ft) trains at speeds of up to 250mph

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A High Court ruling into government consultations on the planned HS2 rail scheme is a "landmark victory" for the project, the rail minister has said.

The government won nine out of 10 points being challenged, which Simon Burns said effectively gave the "green light" to the high-speed rail project.

However, the consultation into compensation for those affected was ruled "unlawful" by Mr Justice Ouseley.

Anti-HS2 group 51m has been granted leave to appeal on two counts.


It's a significant win for the government. This court case had the potential to cause them some hefty problems.

If the judge had decided they'd got the environmental impact element wrong, for example, it could have delayed the project by months, even years, and cost the government (and therefore the taxpayer) a lot of money.

Instead, ministers promise they can now carry on without delay.

But don't think that's the end of the legal wrestling.

Today's losers are already promising to appeal. And ministers could face a whole new wave of legal challenges over the second phase of the line, which will run from Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds.

The London to Birmingham section of the rail £33bn rail project aims to be running by 2025.

The second phase, north from Birmingham in a Y-shaped extension to Manchester and Leeds, could be operational by about 2032-33.

The Department for Transport said that HS2 phase two would virtually halve journey times between Birmingham and Manchester - to 41 minutes - and between London and Manchester from two hours and eight minutes to one hour and eight minutes.

Under the plans, speeds of up to 250mph on HS2 would reduce a Birmingham to Leeds journey from two hours to 57 minutes, while phase one will cut London-Birmingham travel to 49 minutes, from the current one hour and 24 minutes.

But critics argue that HS2's predicted economic benefits have been overestimated by the government, and suggest swathes of picturesque countryside will be blighted by the railway.

The objections brought to court also included the claim that the government failed to adequately assess alternatives to the scheme.

Graphic showing the route for the new high-speed rail network

Five judicial reviews were brought by four protest groups, including 18 councils, campaign group High Speed 2 Action Alliance (HS2AA), which represents more than 70 affiliated groups and residents' associations, and a golf club.

They had claimed there were failures in the consultation process and in assessing the high-speed link's environmental impact.

'National interest'

Speaking after the judgement, Mr Burns said the judge had delivered a "convincing decision... on all the key issues of the way in which the Department for Transport has handled the moving forward of HS2".

He told the BBC: "He has given us the "green light" to move forward... subject to the necessary parliamentary approvals.

"That is good news, because the project is in the national interest."

Richard Houghton of HS2 Action Alliance tells the BBC's Mike Sergeant it is important ''not to believe the spin''

Mr Burns confirmed the government will not appeal against the compensation ruling. Instead, the DfT will hold another property consultation "picking up the points" raised by the judge on Friday.

The department insisted the re-running of the consultation "will not affect the HS2 construction timetable in any way".

During the hearing, the judge identified 10 grounds raised in the five cases.

He rejected nine of the points, including claims the line breached European environment and habitat rules.

But he ruled in favour of HS2AA regarding the nature of the consultation into compensation of householders living along the proposed route, saying "the consultation on compensation was so unfair as to be unlawful".

'Years of dither'

About 172,000 properties within 0.6 miles (1km) of the first phase are alleged to be affected by "HS2 blight".

Hilary Wharf, director of HS2AA, said the judgement was "a huge victory for the hundreds of thousands of people whose lives are blighted by HS2".

She added: "The government must now go back to the drawing board and rethink its approach to compensation.

Rail minister Simon Burns said the decision effectively gave HS2 a "green light"

"There are many better compensation alternatives which would help all those up and down the country trapped by HS2."

Shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle accused the government of a "botched" consultation which had contributed to "three years of dither and delay" over the HS2 project.

She said: "It is right that this vital infrastructure project can now proceed once ministers have re-run the part of the consultation that they botched.

"It is vital that the government now gets on with introducing the necessary legislation to make this scheme a reality on the ground. When they do so, they will have cross-party support from Labour."

One of the failed challenges was from Camden Council in north London, which had concerns that the proposals for Euston station would be detrimental to the local ethnic minority community.

Its leader, Sarah Hayward, said: "We are disappointed with this judgment and will continue to fight this fundamentally-flawed scheme."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 472.

    Why doesn't the regime want to tell the general public that the HS2 plan has been created purely so new cities can be built along the route on countryside land?

    I consider it to be a crime.

  • rate this

    Comment number 471.

    Tally Ho UKIP. Here we come!
    The only political party to oppose the scheme so
    for all those affected,
    for all those that think it is a complete waste of money,
    for all those that want a debate about our transport future
    for all those taxpayers in Bristol and Exeter subsidising every train users fare to the tune of 50%
    you know who to vote for.
    (No, I've never voted for them before)

  • rate this

    Comment number 470.

    The next form of 'land' transport is already on the drawing boards across Europe. Old rusting rail lines and tramlines will be torn up in and near many European cities and replaced with small people carriers - some suspended, (similar to some airport shuttle systems) - no drivers, computer controlled, lightweight, fast & efficient, hop-on/off, ALL we dream of. Abandon this crazy HS2 thing now !

  • rate this

    Comment number 469.


    HS1 = link to the Channel Tunnel. Not a super fast service for London commuters. HS2 = faster & adds services.

    If HS1 is used to run additional services it is of benefit to people travelling into London like you. If you choose to pay more it's up to you.

    (Most) London commuters have a higher salary to pay for living and travelling. (Many) can choose to earn less elsewhere in the country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 468.

    Just got to love all the 'upgrade the existing network' comments. Oh yeah, so how are you meant to get about if the existing lines are to be ripped up & replaced by better rails or overhead lines, or two way bridges. Nothing would run on those lines until upgrades complete!
    Der, never thought of that........

  • rate this

    Comment number 467.

    How would a railway line disadvantage ethnic minorities? Camden Council are nothing if not inventive.

  • rate this

    Comment number 466.

    We really would be better investing in Digital Infrastructure and Services.

    High Speed Broadband, Public Wi-Fi etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 465.

    I (and the majority of the population) will have no need to go to Birmingham. A very very small percentage of people will benefit from this. An even smaller percentage will be able to afford the ticket prices.
    How does this help the millions who will never use this route?
    Congestion on the current lines could surely be solved by having double decker trains on existing lines like other countries.

  • rate this

    Comment number 464.

    Why not instead get some cheap Chinese workers in here building it for us? Forego min wage in their case. We have them slaving over our iphones. Why not get them working for us on the rail network? And spend money saved on genuine high tech growth areas and people who can create real jobs in the new world we have now. The min wage in Uk is a LOt more than when we built the railways last time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 463.

    As much as the reduced travel times will help spread jobs from the M25, train travel is still multiple times more expensive than driving anywhere and has to be subsidised by all tax payers. Would it be much better to expand our road network?

    Was there ever a proposal to add to the current railway lines running London-Birmingham? No destruction of our great countryside, little impact on residents.

  • rate this

    Comment number 462.

    Whichever side of the fence you are on, this won't end well. The court ruling merely means that millions more in our money will be spent on endless committees and consultations before we see a single sleeper laid down. Consultants (as usual) will be the only ones who benefit

  • rate this

    Comment number 461.

    Once our taxes have paid for this folly it will be handed over to a private enterprise to make profits for shareholders.
    An obscene waste of money.

  • rate this

    Comment number 460.

    People here say that HS2 is not worth it due to the distances in the UK. But distance from North to south is the same than France! The UK doen't stop in Birmingham!
    The first TGV in France was Paris-Lyon, barely 200 miles. You have to start somewhere (HS3 will probably go to scotland) and it will be a great alternative to short haul flights and will create thousands of jobs in the process.

  • rate this

    Comment number 459.

    So, Maria Eagle blames the Conservatives for 3 years of delay. Interesting as the Conservatives have not been in power for 3 years!
    Also, one of the most pithy objections came frmo a Labour run council.
    So, I think Maria should keep her opinions to herself.

  • rate this

    Comment number 458.

    Excellent news, this is the sort of infrastructure project that will increase economic growth and, once finished, will make the UK far more productive. This project has no downsides, with great potential for the UK

    I completely disagree - there are many downsides. If the govt wants to spend money on rail transport why doesn't it spend it on upgrading the railway we already have.

  • rate this

    Comment number 457.

    £33b (or more like £50b by the time project over-runs have been paid for) would be better spent on the existing lines (e.g. dual-tracking & double-decker trains) that would benefit the whole country rather than a single corridor, especially as the passenger cost on HS2 will undoubtedly be far higher than the already extortionate cost of using the existing line.

  • rate this

    Comment number 456.

    So what does Scotland get out of this expensive £33 Billion HS2 Project?
    ................Nothing!...........................absolutely.................................. Nothing!

  • Comment number 455.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 454.

    I wonder what would happen if the Govt announced a plan to dig up the M40 in the Chilterns and send all that traffic back through the villages where those very same nimbys are still living. Tens of thousands of vehicles a day driving through Little Missenden and Beaconsfield High Street.

    What would they have said then about the proposed M40? The same
    as they're saying today about HS2.


  • rate this

    Comment number 453.

    438. Will_87

    "A small number of people will be getting very very rich from this project"

    You mis-spelled Politicians...


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