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 672.

    651. Tio Terry and 647. Basher 77
    HS2 DOES NOT go into the same station as HS1.
    Yes, maint and operating will be our jobs, (and the tea lady), but rolling stock, lines, signalling, computer back up equip' will all be provided by European companies.
    Journet time saved varies according to which minister is doing the quoting.

  • rate this

    Comment number 671.

    The UK can do so much better than this, building a completely unnecessary, carbon inefficient, environmental catastrophe such as HS2 will make us a laughing stock ,not a world leader.
    Business travel and quoting faster journey times is something out of the ark for big business, I work for one of the world's largest companies and we have already cut business travel by two thirds.
    HS2? no thanks.

  • rate this

    Comment number 670.

    656.A St Andrean in exile

    I am getting fed up with this project being called "HS2", when it should be H2S. Sulphur is divalent, and bonds with two hydrogen atoms. Get your facts right!

    I applaud your risking villification with such a subtle joke.

  • rate this

    Comment number 669.

    So this is all about our standing in the Global Village, what foreign businessman/woman is going to fly into Heathrow, get the train to Paddington, cross London to Euston to catch another train to the Midlands, if they have an atom of sense they will fly to the Midlands via Heathrow if necessary.

  • rate this

    Comment number 668.

    We have galloped along at an extraordinary pace over the last 100 years or so, isn't it time to slow down and enjoy the scenery.

  • rate this

    Comment number 667.

    All the right money in all the wrong places.

    As for the extra 'FEW' minutes saving, that will get swallowed up with the ever growing transport carnage in the big smoke.

    Still enough time to dream up the excuses for overspent budget and missed deadlines. I hope they get someone who can draw up a tendering process.

  • rate this

    Comment number 666.

    The money planned to be invested in HS2 should be invested on other parts of the rail network. I live in the Lancaster and HS2 will mean I can get to London in 2hrs 30 because of the 1 hour train to Manchester. The current direct train to London takes that long roughly 2hrs 30. Yet the train to Leeds takes 2 hours due to shoddy trains and battered lines. Shocking.

  • rate this

    Comment number 665.

    662. Dave

    Well for one it is the only part of the UK that has growth, and is quite frankly keeping this country afloat. It is a world centre for business, research, engineering, finance and more.

  • rate this

    Comment number 664.

    Waste of money, its yesterdays technology being built years from now. It wont happen anyway this government will get the boot in 2015 and this project will end up years behind schedule and waste millions and millions of tax payers money before some one gives it the chop. And ill say i told you so when it happens.

  • rate this

    Comment number 663.

    So we can afford posh toys for posh boys.....

    ....what about bread for the masses......

    ....people WANT to work, they don't want to claim benefits.....

    ....build something useful to everyone......

  • rate this

    Comment number 662.

    HS2 Whats so special about London. Even the BBC is moving out so why get there so quick?

  • rate this

    Comment number 661.

    651. Tio Terry,

    HS1 ran into financial trouble and the Government had to step in and help, and because of this there were delays.

  • rate this

    Comment number 660.

    642.Have your say Rejected
    Perhaps you should be using a map then?

    Why would you want to invest in anywhere other than where the biggest problem is?

    641.Ivor, 657, RedBus66
    You can deliver 9ft6in tall containers via the internet.

  • rate this

    Comment number 659.

    we had always planned to move west in 2012. If HS2 is now going ahead please sort out the compensation. we are blighted as so many are and have to put our lives on hold. Im not screaming at the rail plans; we just need to be treated fairly so we can get on with our lives. no-one wants to buy our house at the moment. someone somewhere do the right thing please.

  • rate this

    Comment number 658.

    655. ZZlo
    There are many who want England frozen in time forever - no changes, some want no progress, in spite of the world changing. Imagine what it would be like another 50 years' time - if nothing changes. Standard of living will drop to living in 5m2 space, eating processed food (fresh too expensive an
    Come on, it is rumored, HS3 is going to Mars.

  • rate this

    Comment number 657.

    No disrespect to Manchester or Birmingham but we don't want to get there faster on a train. We need to invest in the infrastructure we already have - update rail, stations and facilities to European standards rather than invest in a train that gets us somewhere faster. The future is Broadband, we don't want to sit on trains! A 20th century solution that is out of date before it even begins.

  • rate this

    Comment number 656.

    I am getting fed up with this project being called "HS2", when it should be H2S. Sulphur is divalent, and bonds with two hydrogen atoms. Get your facts right!

  • rate this

    Comment number 655.

    There are many who want England frozen in time forever - no changes, some want no progress, in spite of the world changing. Imagine what it would be like another 50 years' time - if nothing changes. Standard of living will drop to living in 5m2 space, eating processed food (fresh too expensive and no kitchens), and paying thru the nose for congested transport moving at 10mph.

  • rate this

    Comment number 654.

    I live within 100 metres of the proposed route, which will be on a 60ft high viaduct. I am not entitled to any compensation, i have lost at least £100,000 on my property value. i have become a prisoner in my own home. Only 2% of people who are suffering property blight will ever receive any compensation. If they can't afford the compensation, they cant afford the scheme

  • rate this

    Comment number 653.

    Why is this only about money? What's the cost? What's the compensation? How much will revenue increase?
    Doesn't anyone ever consider quality of life?
    Ask youself, will this improve the quality of life for the majority of people. If the answer is no then think again, if yes then go ahead, but stop the sole focus on pounds.
    To parapharse "It's not the small round pieces of metal that are unhappy"


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