Opposition’s legal challenge to High Speed 2 clears first hurdle

Yesterday the Court  set the timetable on the case against High Speed 2 (HS2). The judge agreed that the five cases against HS2 will all be heard and sets the date for the hearings; he caps the opposition’s costs and he opens the door to further amendments to the claims.

The Government’s solicitors and the five parties challenging the lawfulness of Justine Greening’s January 2012 announcement to proceed with the controversial high speed rail network (HS2) had their first meeting in court today. His Honour Mr Justice Ouseley presided over a “Case Management Conference” which confirmed how the five challenges to HS2 will be heard by the court. It was agreed that

  • The claims will all be heard: The five different claims brought in respect of the Secretary of State’s decision to proceed with HS2 will be heard in the High Court starting on 3 December 2012. It is anticipated that the court will sit for eight days to hear the cases.
  • The cases will be heard together but organised separately: There will be an agreed running order and the Court will give its decision after all cases have been heard.
  • Justine Greening required to explain consultation errors: Three of the four parties bringing cases (HS2AA, 51M, and Heathrow Hub, as) made clear to the court during today’s hearing that the news last week that their 2011 consultation responses had been omitted could now affect their grounds for challenge.  The Secretary of State has been required to provide a full explanation for what happened. The judge agreed their cases could then be amended if required.
  • Further hearing scheduled. It was agreed that there would be a further hearing in October dealing with the Government’s continuing refusal to release official data on passengers numbers on the West Coast Main Line.
  • Costs will be capped: It was confirmed that HS2AA were successful in their application to have their costs capped, at £25,000 for each of their two cases.

Speaking to the Bucks Free Press, Martin Tett,Bucks CC leader and chairman of 51m, said: “It’s a good decision, we’re really pleased. It’s good news, not just for the local people we represent but for hard pressed tax payers across the country.”

Chiltern District Councillor Andrew Garnet added: “It’s not time to open the champagne bottle but we are going to get our day in court and have the chance to expose HS2’s deficiencies.”

Hilary Wharf, Director HS2AA said “We are very pleased with today’s decision. Not only does the Judge agree our cases should be, and will be heard, but the Secretary of State has been forced to account for her actions in seemingly ignoring many consultation responses.

The fact that three of the four claimants in this case have had their consultation responses mishandled is unbelievable. But it does explain why the Government seemed not to be listening, – because they weren’t. We were pleased that the judge allowed us to amend our case to reflect these developments.

The Government should stop hiding behind its lawyers and release the capacity data which is so fundamental to their case for HS2.

The hearing in December 2012 will provide communities from Euston to Staffordshire with the opportunity so many having been waiting so long for – to show the court why we think the decision to proceed with HS2 was unlawful.

I would like to thank our two legal teams who have worked so hard to get us to this point and the many thousands of supporters who contributed to the legal fund, without which HS2AA could not have afforded justice.”

On 20th July 413 people and organisations (including 3 taking judicial reviews, and the personal submission of Joe Rukin, the Stop HS2 Campaign Manager) learnt from HS2 Ltd that their detailed response to the 2011 consultation got lost due to ‘processing errors’.  Despite this HS2 Ltd say none of the omitted responses introduced any new matters hence they say the consultation summary  and HS2 decision still stand.

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9 comments on “Opposition’s legal challenge to High Speed 2 clears first hurdle
  1. Bravo! Well done to all concerned.
    It is an apalling situation when you have to go to court to be heard and listened to. I have come to the conclusion the only time most MPs listen, is at election time when they need ‘your’ cross. They then assume a right they are not entitled to… to do whatever they are told irrespective of their constituents wishes.

    • Yes, but a consultation is not a referendum, nor are M.P.s delegates.

      None of the parties is elected on any single issue and all three main parties included major rail improvements in their stated aims.

      Whether all the residents along the A. 40, outside the immediate urban strip through Loudwater and High/ West Wycombe ,or those living in Northchurch, Tring or Hemel were or are totally happy with the bypasses which became the present M.40 and A.41 ,I cannot say- but as a relief from previous desperate congestion and forming essential links in the national transport network, then most people are glad that they exist.

      If the government is determined to press on with long term plans to begin a High Speed network for long distance trains to bypass congested sections, then it can and will do so.

      But the value of the consultation could be that it highlights particular local concerns and suggests modifications, so as to diminish the effects and improve the design of the whole design. This happened with HS1 when it was put in tunnel between Stratford and Dagenham, and not on the surface ,as originally intended.

      But we cannot expect any one to listen and modify their plans if they are constantly attacked and derided as selfish ignorant greedy idiots, unprincipled and whose only motivations could be money or to cling to office!

      Would you want to engage with people who insulted you in this way, in public ?

      Engagement with mutual respect, possibly leading to compromises, is the only way to go forward- otherwise we risk the objections and objectors just being shouldered aside and ignored.

      • Engagement with mutual respect, possibly leading to compromises, is the only way to go forward- otherwise we risk the objections and objectors just being shouldered aside and ignored.

        Precisely but that isn’t going to happen because for those populating the ranks of STOPHS2 and other anti-HS2 groupings (AGHAST, HS2AA, 51M) there is only ONE game in town and that is to destroy HS2 or any similar project impacting upon the local envrionment in and around the narrow ROUTE3 corridor – there is simply no compromise possible.

        • I don’t suppose that Penny and the rest of the good people at Stop HS2 would disagree with that. The clue is in the name !

          You are right, moving the line 50 metres here and there and adding the odd extra green tunnel is no compromise. Not when the scheme costs £ 36 bn ( with an economic case that seems to gets worse every day ) and that cost will be borne by all of us, not just those living in your target area of the Chilterns or elsewhere along Route 3.

          A compromise could have been a slower line, built where possible alongside a motorway, usefully calling at a few more stations. But this government’s pursuit of Adonis’ SNCF inspired 250 mph proposals has probably put paid to that.

          • errrr……you are deluded @MartinH!

            Had the line in question passed along the same route as that planned for HS2, it would have been viscerally opposed for the same basic reason – it’s potential to impact upon the local environment.

            Given that the costs of like for like counterpart, except for the differences you mention. ie. speed design and station locations, are not that dissimilar from HS2 – it would be interesting to see reaction to the even smaller BCR figure – less overall capacity and time saving for a start off?

            • Peter

              I am assuming from your many postings that you have many contacts in the rail industry.

              Could you please ask them to use their influence to–

              get the WCML loadings released
              get the MPA amber /red report released
              have the business and economic plans revised as suggested by the Transport Select Committee/PAC

              thanks

            • Sorry to disappoint @John

              I’m just an ordinary person who can easily perceive the manifestly obvious benefits flowing from HS2 – I have no contacts in the rail industry but never mind – doubtless the info you are seeking will be available before long – after all the Judicial Review court case planned for 3rd December will reveal the data in minute detail, for what it’s worth?

          • “There is simply no compromise possible.”

            ** Right, -so the Irresistible Force meets the Immovable Object.**

            Before the Hs2 route was published, mention was made in Parliament of “a disused railway line”… running “to Birmingham”, a reference almost certainly, to the Great Central route [1899-1966]to the East [not West] Midlands but crossing the WCML at Rugby.

            Much of the disused section north of Calvert still exists without major redevelopment and the Northants CC structure plan gave a degree of protection, but the Central Railways (freight) scheme to revive this line failed to attract government support and roused local opposition along its course.
            This could have provided the necessary bypass to the congested West Coast line sections between Rugby, Northampton, Milton Keynes and Euston and reconnected the link to the GW-Chiltern main line.

            No compromise -and another opportunity lost.

            And because of the uncompromising requirement for a 400 kph/ 250mph specified for HS2, even the very gentle curves of the GC route were considered to be too severe,as at Chetwode.
            On the other hand, every time a modification of the Hs route has been agreed in the face of local pressure, then less of the original trackbed could be reused and cosequently MORE fresh ground is earmarked for the new line!

            * Versions Farm which stands to be bisected by HS2, was not originally on the route, but pressure to move the line further away from Brackley and the other (north east) side of Turweston put the farm directly in line- so too is the recently commissioned Whitfield point to point racecourse.

      • No-one would argue the rail network needs improvements. Anti HS2 groups have never said it. What they do say is HS2 is not the answer. There are better much cheaper ways of doing it. Anti HS2 people try the logical arguements using DfT data and reasoning. In the National interest it’s trying to get MPs and others to look into the detail and not just listen to the glamorous erroneous rhetoric pumped out by the certain people in Government. We already have high speed rail, even prior to HS1, but it suits the HMG to ignore it and pretend we don’t, because they would not be able to spin the implication we are behind the times compared to the rest of Europe.

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