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 692.

    To Barry Scott 465
    An eminently sensible suggestion but fraught with engineering problems because of the size, and number, of tunnels, especially around London.

  • rate this

    Comment number 691.

    The notion that we’ll “solve” congestion problems through high speed rail links and the like is an illusion. There is an optimum for journey speed/time for a given land mass: taken to its limit, by travelling from A to B in zero time (impossible) effectively shrinks available space to zero, absurd in an overpopulated world! But then, we ARE and absurd species.

  • rate this

    Comment number 690.

    Strange how there's money to build a new and expensive high-speed route which no-one except business people claiming against tax will be able to afford, and yet there's no money to get the existing network working. Strange, that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 689.

    So the High Court clears the way for the creation of yet another white elephant designed to bleed the taxpayers of the country of yet more of their ever diminishing pile of wealth.

    The taxpayer will fund the building of the permanent way, the manufacture of the trains and provide the subsidies for the passengers tickets. It will never run at a profit and most won't be able to use it.


  • rate this

    Comment number 688.

    Wont have to. There will be an interchange at Old Oak Common where you will be able to get off the Heathrow express and get on HS2.

    672.Peter Buck
    I never said it went in to the same station, I said HS1 and HS2 are linked, this means you could run from, say, Glasgow/Edinburgh direct to Paris/Frankfurt etc. without needing to change trains in London.

  • rate this

    Comment number 687.

    A massive equity release scheme for those in the south who wish to sell their properties but still work/visit the south.It could mean tens or hundreds of thousands of properties being built on the green fields of central England.Food miles obviously mean nothing to the major parties! With all three major parties in agreement,no alternative-why?Short term gain long term pain,but full party coffers!

  • rate this

    Comment number 686.

    It would be interesting to correlate the pro/con comments with North/South addresses. I live North and I'm pro. I think it will bring the whole country benefits.

    I would wager that many (though not all) complaining about losses in house value have enjoyed disproportionate windfall gains. Just as I didn't resent your lucky gains I don't shan't lose sleep over your decrease in house values. Sorry.

  • rate this

    Comment number 685.

    I truly appreciate the concerns of people who will be genuinely blighted by this scheme, but that is not all of the complainants. Many just want compensation for the sake of it, not because the scheme will cause issues for them.
    We need forward thinking on our public transport infrastructure, this should have been built 20 years ago, if it were we'd have a network of high speed rail by now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 684.

    Wendy Pennies 624
    The new transport systems CAN be installed alongside existing tracks and of course there will be disruption, particularly when exisiting railway tracks are being removed. The HS2 is possibly a political stunt and is unlikely to meet time/cost targets. I forecast the actual HS train will never run on the proposed line, but the new route will be used by the new people-carriers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 683.

    675. Tio Terry, That might well be a fact, one I will not argue. Though I don't see how you believe HS2 won't be over budget or run over time. Since you conceed politics hampered HS1, exactly the same problems are hampering HS2...

  • rate this

    Comment number 682.

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

    .... When I said invest elsewhere in the UK I did not mean the HS2 - improve existing roads, build schools, etc. etc. Saving 20 minutes or whatever it is on a short journey is helping next to no-one.

  • rate this

    Comment number 681.

    If we cant sort out the future of power generation in this country then this will all be a waste of time, or perhaps we will go back to steam or diesel.

  • rate this

    Comment number 680.

    HS2 will be an environmental and financial disaster,financed largely by people who will not derive any benefit from it. Half an hour off the journey to/ from Birmingham, so that people can spend their day looking at computer screens that they could do perfectly well at home. Building new railways is frozen in time- they're so 19th century!

  • rate this

    Comment number 679.

    After carefully listening to all the arguments and reading your comments, without critisism or bias I have come to the conclusion that there is a definate need for it.
    Come on fellow countrymen, cut out the prejudice, self interest and biased comments, roll your sleeves up and lets get the job done!

  • rate this

    Comment number 678.


    Eggsactly ! Something smells rotten about the whole project

  • rate this

    Comment number 677.

    They don't have these problems with NIMBYes in France. Citizens there see it as their patriotic duty to support national infrastructure projects like TGV and neither can nor do use guerrilla warfare using planning rules to thwart the national will.

  • rate this

    Comment number 676.

    98. Owensteam

    These politicians are so thick it is unbelievable


    I can only assume you're quite young.

  • rate this

    Comment number 675.

    661.Have your say Rejected
    Not true.
    Once the politicians had stopped playing games and pandering to NIMBY's and handed the project over to the Engineers it was completed on time and to budget. The only issues with the project were caused by politicians changing their minds and they are still doing it. Just look at the aircraft carrier debacle!

  • rate this

    Comment number 674.


    I'm in the north and the last thing I need is a better link to the s***hole of the planet. Look what's by the Thames near the embankment!

  • rate this

    Comment number 673.

    This whole project is insane!

    Even with slightly faster trains from A to B everyone still has to get through London! The cost to the environment and the taxpayer is huge, driven by business, greed and government.

    The 'billions' would be better spent on improving our existing rail network. Stop big business profiteering from our national infrastructure and re-nationalise our transport system.


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