Ruling on HS2 legal challenges expected in court on Friday 15th March.

"If the Government will not listen in Parliament then ministers will find they have to listen in the courts"

Stop HS2 banner for Judicial Reviews

The results of the Judicial Reviews into the legality of the Governments plans for HS2 are expected to be handed down at the Royal Courts of Justice on Friday 15th March from 10.30. In December 2012, five comprehensive cases were heard by Lord Justice Ouseley, questioning the legality of a host of issues including; an inadequate consultation including the failure to provide accurate information, failure to comply to environmental statute, failure to assess the impact on communities, failure to adequately assess alternatives, failure to consider the impact of HS2 on other parts of the transport infrastructure, the chosen route including changing parts of the route post-consultation, and that the decision on compensation failed to meet Government promises and relied on undisclosed information.
One of the key points of the challenge against the 2011 consultation was that people living on Stage 2 of the proposed project had been completely disenfranchised, because they would not be consulted on the principle of HS2, simply on the chosen route and compensation options. Environmentally, the case against HS2 was based on the contention that the Government had acted unlawfully by not complying with the legal requirements of the Habitats Directive, the Strategic Environmental Assessment regulations and the Aarhus Convention.

On behalf of the Government, the best defence Tim Mould QC could come up with was that the Secretary of State had ‘not made a decision to proceed with the HS2 rail scheme’ as it was still ‘only a policy’, despite the fact there was constant reference in court to the Governments ‘decisions document’. This concept has surely been further undermined by the publication of the Stage 2 route, and the announcement by Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin to introduce a ‘Paving Bill’ this year, which will release more funds for the project on top of an amount in excess of a quarter of a billion pounds, which has already been spent on HS2.

Other revelations during the nine days in court last December included the fact that the spur route to Heathrow Airport, which has since been dropped would throw away 70p for each pound of taxpayers money spent on it, and that in peaks evening hours, trains out of Euston were only 52.2% full in 2011, a drop of 2% from 2008.

If the Government were to lose the Judicial Reviews and not to appeal, the HS2 project might be set back by several years, during which time campaigners hope objective reassessments would be made, and rail investment alternatives would be implemented instead.

Stop HS2 chair, Penny Gaines said;
“We are very glad to hear that the judge will making an announcement on the judicial reviews. It’s clear there have been fundamental mistakes in the process so far. These include losing over 1000 consultation responses, including the Stop HS2 campaign manager’s personal response. This bungled handling has continued with the Government deciding to change which Acts of Parliament they want to use with the sudden consideration of a Paving Bill, to get more money from the taxpayer for this unnecessary white elephant. Not only do they want more money from the taxpayer, but just recently we’ve been hearing about secret meetings to reduce fundamental parts of the plan, such as the necessary works at Euston. It’s time Patrick McLoughlin faced facts and cancelled HS2 in its entirety.”

Joe Rukin, Stop HS2 Campaign Manager said,
“We were absolutely amazed by the sheer arrogance of Government when they announced Stage 2 of HS2 five weeks ago, before the ruling on whether they had acted legally so far on Stage 1. Coalition leaders have shined a spotlight on HS2 and walked into it, wanting to be associated with the project, but come next week they could find that they have linked themselves to an illegal project which everyone will see is being based on nothing more than sentiment and spin.”

“In December there were five very detailed cases put against HS2, which when all combined together show quite starkly that the Government has rushed HS2 through and not only ignored any objections or suggestions which could make the scheme better, but they also seem to have ignored the principle of fairness and their legal obligations. After sitting through the cases, I can see why David Cameron wants his infrastructure projects to be above the law, it’s because they want to rush them through with utter contempt for the law. Well now the law will have it’s say and we look forward to it.”

Our report following the end of the hearings in December can be found via this link.

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2 comments to “Ruling on HS2 legal challenges expected in court on Friday 15th March.”
  1. I look out regularly to see if someone has finally nailed HS2 / DfT for their underhand dealings.
    That they themselves have now dynamited their own flagship monument is just … dynamite.
    PM says: “ we have to invest in new infrastructure”. I agree but ask why the following has taken so long: WCML junction Norton Bridge.
    Initial consultation started 2010 – and, low and behold, they learned from this that a national grid gas pipeline is in the way.
    For the final consultation which has just ended, Network Rail explain:
    • “Norton Bridge Junction is the point at which the West Coast Main Line divides towards Stone/Manchester and Liverpool/Glasgow.
    The layout of the railway in the area is complex. Trains travelling towards Stone are required to slow down and cross two other railway lines, forcing traffic from London to Liverpool or Glasgow to stop and wait. This restricts capacity and causes delays along the route.
    We plan to separate slow and fast moving trains by building a new section of track to take Stone and Manchester bound traffic over, rather than across, the West Coast Main Line.
    The railway around Stafford will also be re-signalled, disused lines will be reinstated as freight loops and other track improvement works will be undertaken to increase the speed of lines and improve journeys for passengers.
    Download the Stafford area improvements proposal map (PDF 550 KB)
    http://www.networkrail.co.uk/aspx/11026.aspx
    The benefits
    The project will create space for additional train services, including:
    Two extra fast trains per hour between London Euston and the North West
    One additional train per hour between Manchester (Stone) and Birmingham
    One additional freight path per hour through Stafford via Trent Valley, helping take lorries off congested roads such as the M6
    It will also reduce congestion on the line, making services more reliable and punctual whilst improving frequency and journey times for passengers”.
    Network Rail also points out that this project has no affect on the need for HS2Y. As PADAV would say: derrrr!? – just look again at the benefits as described by you!
    That this major junction as described by Network Rail has been allowed to continue all these years demonstrates the utter negligence of its predecessors British Rail / Railtrack and of gov.uk.
    That this relatively small (compared to HS2Y) but highly beneficial project involving little disruption to land and (hopefully) people has taken so long to get to this point shows gov.uk is again sleeping on the job.

  2. Can the Judge comments on matters that have arisen since the hearing but before his judgment?
    The Euston Matter and the PMs comments of yesterday and today are interesting.
    This is the link to Camden New Journal that broke the story. There is an interesting editorial comment as well.

    http://www.camdennewjournal.com/
    http://www.camdennewjournal.com/new-journal-comment-high-speed-rail-win-global-race-economically-hs2-scandal-fast-way-waste-money

    This is of grave concern.
    It may be a strategy to engender fear ; if you don’t agree and resist HS2 we will punish you further by forcing it through and threatening to do it contrary to stated plans which in themselves were imperfect.
    It may also a strong arm tactic to quell authorities from adding to the cost ie Bucks mitigation plan. Such fear tactics would be consistent with the general undemocratic way this project has been imposed, including the threat of a Paving Bills to’ flag intent’ and encourage [city] development.

    No wonder HS2 ltd did not want the Euston changes to be revealed it sets the tone for the whole project.

    I believe that Cllr Hayward has a moral and ethical reason to reveal all he knows and that there should be no link between this and housing ‘deals’.

    The Cabinet are obviously aware and in tacit approval.
    “When you launch a project like HS2 it causes a lot of local concern, a lot of local unease. If we are going to win in the global race economically, we have to invest in new infrastructure – whether that is roads, bypasses, bridges, tunnels or railways, including HS2.
    It is likely such issues are going to affect the entire route.

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