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 892.

    I don't believe either side when it comes to economic predictions. The scheme is so far in the future that predictions cannot be made with any degree of certainty either way. The project is, rightly, a matter of faith. I am for this line, but let us all defend the beauty and tranquility of the Chilterns. The peace is disturbed by Chiltern Railways already, but not greatly - at the moment.

  • rate this

    Comment number 891.

    Could anybody please explain why saving 20 minutes justifies spending so much money? It takes longer to travel by tube from Putney to Oxford Circus.... let alone the Thames Clipper from Putney Embankment to Embankment. Thank you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 890.

    Trains are so Victorian, and no you can't have double deckers.. Invest in IT

  • rate this

    Comment number 889.

    After a recent trip to London my girlfriend left for her home near Paris by Eurostar and I left for mine in Exeter. She rang me to say she had arrived home safely whilst my train rumbled on for another half hour. We need to modernise our country before we become a quaint old victorian living museum.

  • rate this

    Comment number 888.

    Mr. Right two of the ten most crowded trains in the UK are out of Euston, but you are not travelling on an Intermodal Freight Train, it's train paths, that are needed, and currently we are turning away freight from rail while our roads cannot cope for much of the day. £9bn on the WCML bought us just 6 years grace, HS2 is the only solution, and at less than £3bn a year is a bargain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 887.

    Without a major-major upgrade to the signalling system, the WCML cannot run additional trains on the existing track. Just go and talk to the people at Network Rail.
    How about:
    1) Electrifying Manchester to St Pancras (London Midlands) via Sheffield?
    2) Electrifying Manchester to Marylebone via Oxford?

    With a lot of projects, it is easier to start from scratch though.

  • rate this

    Comment number 886.

    Let's home that it only carries passengers one way, so that, a) we don't have to put up with wet southerners up here and b) business commuters will stay down south where they belong. God, I loathe 'business' people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 885.

    Big John, the schemes you mention are being done already, except electrification to Marylebone which is a newly modernised route and likely to be done in the 2020s. Southampton to Sheffield is being electrified also.
    £38bn is being spent on the old network electrifying and modernising routes. Privately financed 19000 new passenger vehicles are planned. All in addition and to connect with, HS2.

  • rate this

    Comment number 884.

    Not sure why the Beeb aren't reporting this, so I'm-a just leave it here:


    Our government broke the law; it is now trying to change the law and apply the change retroactively. This sets an ugly precedent and undermines the law of the land, and the BBC should really be telling you about it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 883.

    The reason this country is behind is because some in our society and I refer to them as nimbies need to get a life and stop being so self centered. We will be close to the proposed network and we are embracing it. It will make our life's better as commuting time will be cut, so what if there a little extra noise. People should get a life and look further than the end of their own nose.

  • rate this

    Comment number 882.

    I've used the WCML most days for the past decade.

    It's nowhere near capacity, even less so since Virgin started running 11 unit Pendolino's.

    South West Trains out of Waterloo and London Underground - now they're running at full capacity.

    HS2 is a waste of money.

  • rate this

    Comment number 881.

    1) Adding a couple of carriages to a Pendalino will not meet future growth!
    2) The estimated increase in freight traffic with the additional of Liverpool Deep Water Port and Manchester Airport freight terminal cannot be met by the existing WCML!
    3) New capacity requires a major upgrading of the existing capacity or a complete new build.

    Point me to an alternative?

  • rate this

    Comment number 880.

    This is money well spent because everyone loves Birmingham! Much LOL. I would be me worst nightmare heading towards Birmingham at high speed. Please stop this madness before more of my hard earned taxes go down the drain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 879.

    Mr. Right, already been tried, would cost far more and disturb far more properties, does nothing to free up urgently needed train paths. The demand for intermodal freight far outstrips anything less than that a new railway provides, and by making it HS, more paths are freed on the old network. HS1 Heathrow, Birmingham, Manchester, East Midlands, Leeds. Sheffield and the airports all joined up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 878.

    There will always be those who want to nothing ever to change.
    But we do need new transport systems.

    I'm not sure HS2 is a solution especially as it connects to London. Why not bypass to allow the North to go direct to Europe ?

    But projects do need to be done rapidly and fair compensation must be provided.

    Having seen management consultants at work, they will be the winners whatever happens.

  • rate this

    Comment number 877.

    Since ordinary commuters are slowly being priced off the rails with massive annual fare increases, who exactly will benefit from this exorbitant white elephant? You guessed it, the rich. Because they'll be the only ones who can afford to be swept past the Great Unwashed at 300kmh.

  • rate this

    Comment number 876.

    HS2, puts Birmingham Airport as far from London as Gatwick in travel time, removes millions of lorries from the roads by freeing up freight paths on the network and connects up the regions far cheaper than any possible alternative. It does not affect the current HLOS budget for the railway which is having £38bn spent on it before HS2 opens. Compared to £90bn a year benefits bill it's a bargain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 875.

    Big John the Red

    Here's an alternative to address capacity.

    Lengthen the trains and extend a few platforms.

    Now, can I have my £29.5bn change from the £30.0bn I just handed over?

    ... which I'd use to put a 100MB internet connection into every residential and business address in the UK.

  • rate this

    Comment number 874.

    Can somebody show me a project that meets the future growth of both passenger and freight traffic that is not just tinkering with the already existing (over stretch) network?

    Or Is this:

    “It just may go through my nice Buckinghamshire garden!”

  • rate this

    Comment number 873.

    # 864 - Paddington to Birmingham via Reading and Oxford; the stretch to Oxford is part of the FGW electrification and the short link between Oxford and Coventry is easily achieved. You can have that by about 2018 and savour the state of the art station at Reading.


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