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 772.

    Interesting way in which the BBC published the story earlier this morning on both television news and radio news. The organisation led with the fact that the courts had found the Government to have broken the law on compensation. Then this was followed by the fact that the courts had upheld the Government on nine other counts. This slant was changed as the day progressed. Typical of a biased BBC.

  • rate this

    Comment number 771.

    If you look down from a plane you'll find it hard to even spot the hair-like railway lines threading through vast swathes of green.

    That's like saying if I stood on the moon I wouldn't notice all the rain forests being cleared. It doesn't mean it isn't happening or that it isn't damaging !!

  • rate this

    Comment number 770.

    Today I went to a beautiful place in Middlesex called Harefield Activity Centre where my 11 year old twins are celebrating their birthday with 25 friends + family. I was shocked to learn that HS2 would leave this outdoor activity centre by the lake for children as just another greenfield site given up to commercialism. I have my own business and see the merits but at the expense of our children??

  • rate this

    Comment number 769.

    @ 764
    london overspill - been happening for years - still you will be meeting the other overspill,those whose housing benefit wont cover london costs

  • rate this

    Comment number 768.

    Good news. Talk of HS2 wrecking the environment is nonsense. If you look down from a plane you'll find it hard to even spot the hair-like railway lines threading through vast swathes of green. The impact of HS2 on the countryside will be minuscule.

  • rate this

    Comment number 767.

    That's one hell of a lot of wind turbines to power a 400kmph train, where exactly do the government propose to erect these to meet carbon neutral targets?

  • rate this

    Comment number 766.

    Government needs to realise that it's not just about economic growth at all cost - people value the environment, and the landscape.

    For whose benefit is HS2? If local people don't want it and see no value in it, then what is the point?

  • rate this

    Comment number 765.

    #757 Steve - If we build tiny boxes in ever higher blocks we have a lot of land in London. Go to Hong Kong to see our future living environment. As for any Mayor of London defending a green belt that raises prices so only the rich can afford to live here, then no wonder foreign money is investing as we create a boom. Ken should get back to his newts, Boris to being a useless duffer!

  • rate this

    Comment number 764.

    @661 BJ. probably because it costs more money to widen motorways and with worldwide pressure to reduce carbon emmisions widening motorways for more cars looks bad. Fact is this line will create jobs. I alone would be able to move out of where i live further up north to a cheaper (likely bigger) house and still only have the same commuteing time to work. More money in my pocket in the end

  • rate this

    Comment number 763.

    HS2 will never be built, so stop worrying.

  • rate this

    Comment number 762.

    Any takers on how much this will really cost. Olympics went from about £2 billion to nearly £10 billion and it pains me to think of how various IT projects have ballooned and still failed to deliver - eg NHS.

    How much of this money is going to go to UK companies ? Aren't there other infrastructure projects that would benefit UK businesses more ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 761.

    Rather than spending huge amounts on a useless rail service that is limited to those that can afford its expensive fares and so is limited to the rich businessmen and commuters why not spend that money widening motorways to 4 and 5 lane. This would be far more efficient and benefit the whole economy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 760.

    Congratulations on paving the way to create a 'railway sleeper' which will come back to haunt us all with Tax increases, escalating construction price rises, contractual disagreements, Civil Servant procurement officers (West coast rail shambles who now have this title) from a government with one vision (line our own pockets and to hell with everyone else who has this in their back yard)

  • rate this

    Comment number 759.

    Yet again the Government is dazzled by a vainglorious project – seeing themselves being credited with building a line to compete with continental railways. Unfortunately we need “airbus” trains, not “concorde” trains

  • rate this

    Comment number 758.

    I real pity. That money should be used to upgrade existing lines.

    As usual with the Tories (I know the last Labour government were behind this project as well...) they are pursuing a two-tier system; whereby new route tickets will cost x2 more than the existing line, benefitting those with able incomes to work in London.

    The HS2 line in Kent to London is precisely like that in ticket fees.

  • rate this

    Comment number 757.

    #750. Marcus Rollbar
    Didn't Ken Livingstone say there was enough house building land in London for 20 years? The trouble is the homes are being built largely for the rich,very rich foreign money launderers and worse! Not native British workers. The property bubble in the south east is only for the few and is corrupt. Perhaps we should all wake up and complain a bit more.
    I'm done.
    Dinner time!

  • rate this

    Comment number 756.

    A Landmark Ruling?Politics and people with influence win.People with no influence lose.
    Until the next election.
    People wih no influence then become very important.
    Sadly..they only only matter for a few weeks..
    And even then,only matter if they vote according to which newspaper they buy..
    Politicians never win elections.
    Newspapers do.
    Our Politicians are fully aware of this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 755.

    One last thing,as Columbo used to say.
    The trains will have to be full to be economic as speed is very energy greedy.I seem to remember Top Gear testing the 250 mph Bugatti Veyron up to full speed. The driver said that petrol tank would be empty in 12 minutes!
    Any physicists out there to clue me up?

  • rate this

    Comment number 754.

    Too little far too late, and for a huge price! France has been running trains here at over 180mph for 30 years, and faster trains are on the way. The UK should have bought in to TGV years ago.

  • rate this

    Comment number 753.

    It is a sad reflection that these days a 'Victory for the Government' is bad news for most of the country.


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