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 912.

    They should really change the name of this project to H2S. The whole thing stinks.

  • rate this

    Comment number 911.

    Why not just abandon this folly and sort out the road network with the money instead? Oh and stop letting people who get subsidised transport,paid taxi's and free parking in prestige area's decide what's for the best...just an idea-how many years of free parking in all towns/cities is this going to cost? Silly idea for the few.

  • rate this

    Comment number 910.

    How about they turn the old lines back into farmland when HS2 has finished being built? Works for me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 909.

    The more I read about HS2 the more convinced I am that there is something very fishy going on here. Something fishier than a mackerel soup in fact.

  • rate this

    Comment number 908.

    Seems to me that apart from the government and the obvious vested interests, few people seem badly to want this thing. So its an exercise in flexing muscles and driving things through a reluctant population rather than something genuinely necessary or particularly helpful. Could this and gay marriage be the primary monuments to an inauspicious and wasted period of government?

  • rate this

    Comment number 907.

    London is like a cancer consuming the country with its need to be the centre of everything. All HS2 will do is increase the width of the commuter belt to the detriment of developing local economies. Total madness and yet another example of how politicians become absorbed in their own sense of the grandiose, fed by the lobbyists who profit from their posturing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 906.

    The argument that says "upgrade existing lines instead" just is not valid. It's a NIMBY argument without seeming to be.

    It's not valid because of the problems caused during the upgrade, it wouldn't add that much capacity anyway, and an extra line is needed to give backup to the system, so that any incident on any single line has less an effect on the network.

    HS2 needs to be built.

  • rate this

    Comment number 905.

    What does a Tory minister care for the Rule of Law? Nowt it appears! I am sure they consider they 'make' the judges so they can 'unmake' a judge who fails to fall into line?
    Funny, I always thought like the Second World War that the Enemy would come in the front door not via the Houses of Parliament?

  • rate this

    Comment number 904.

    Are another triumph of opinion over the facts

    The Government lose another court case and its 'a victory' despite unlawful compensation move

    You couldn’t make it up

    I think it is another case of David what can you do in a brewery

  • rate this

    Comment number 903.

    If this project is such a sure fire winner, why isn't the private sector falling over itself to build and operate it. If that were the case many of the negative comments would disappear. It is the fact that the burden will fall on the taxpayer that is most galling.

  • rate this

    Comment number 902.

    More of this Green and Pleasant Land to Go. A train travelling at 250MPH will cause one hell of a lot of noise pollution when not in a cutting.

  • rate this

    Comment number 901.

    More whitewash from the kings of whitewash. There is a perfectly good service with Chiltern or Virgin and we don't need all this money down the drain to save 20 minutes. Chuck it out and spend it on more worthwhile things - like starving Brits or a crumbling infrastructure. Where are their priorities?

  • rate this

    Comment number 900.


    Let's all just agree to disagree like Thomas.

  • rate this

    Comment number 899.

    Parties on both sides are missing the obvious.

    Simply undo Beeching.

    We already have a disused London-to-North mainline - also the only "European Grade" mainline we ever had from the great days of Victorian railway innovation - The Great Central.

    Aside a little urban inconvenience in Leicester, rebuilding GCR would cost a fraction of current HS2 proposals - with similar results to HS2 .

  • rate this

    Comment number 898.

    HS2 is a great idea. Just get on with it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 897.

    A few years ago, for a few months, London Midlands offered an alternative to Virgin for Manchester to London using HST’s to St Pancras, via the Peak District – Sheffield line. They have subsequently been withdrawn.

    The fact that Sheffield is not electrified in probably a national disgrace as it could offer a (serious) alternative electrified route.

  • rate this

    Comment number 896.

    It seems this ruling was made by a single judge on the basis of... what, exactly? Nine out of ten points upheld seems compelling, but there seems little detail forthcoming on those points, and less about the experience and qualifications of the judge himself.
    Still, at least the government gets another go at failing to adequately compensate those residents most affected by this grotesque scheme.

  • rate this

    Comment number 895.

    Why does everthing seem the revolve around London and the need for speed to get there?

    The country has other cities and towns that also do good business

  • rate this

    Comment number 894.

    I live 200m from an inspection tunnel and I support the project:

    1. I'm not fussed about Birmingham, but the increased accessibility of Scotland will be a *huge* change. Go and see what TGV has done for France or bullet for Japan.
    2. We draw on an awful lot of fine victorian infrastructure - canals, railways, sewers, roads. It's time this generatiion made its gift in return.

  • rate this

    Comment number 893.

    the only winners will be the legal system who will make yet again millions trying to fight for the HS2 or against it, and for what a shorter trip from London only to end up in a station that you have to get a slower train to your final destination, citys in the UK are too close to need a train that goes at 200 miles ar faster


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