Budget promise on HS3 will be taking the highest cost option for another white elephant.

As reported in The Independent on Sunday, Chancellor George Osborne intends to put more meat on the bones of the HS3 plans he first raised in June last year in his budget statement, in what he hopes will be a potential vote winner in the upcoming election. However, whilst he may claim that better Transpennine links are essential to create a ‘northern powerhouse’, the reality is that the current £440m project to electrify the current Transpennine link via Huddersfield was put on hold by Network Rail “Pending clarification of the project’s scope by the Department for Transport”  (Download, Row 16, Column M) last week, with only 4% of the project completed.

In addition, the DfT will launch a business case for HS3, in response to previous statements from Stop HS2, that HS3 has “No plan, no route, no budget and no timescale”.

Electrification of the Transpennine route had been due to be complete by 2018 at a cost of £290m when Mr Osborne announced it in his 2011 Autumn Statement (See overlap of pages 31-32): , but a Network Rail report last November put the completion date back three years to 2021, with the cost spiralling to £440m. In his budget statement, The Chancellor is expected to put the cost envelope of the Trasnpennine HS3 at £7-10bn.

ARUP say it will cost just £110m for a new Trans-Pennine route by reopening Skipton-Colne. (The Todmorten Curve is due to reopen this year)

ARUP say it will cost just £110m for a new Trans-Pennine route by reopening Skipton-Colne. (The Todmorten Curve is due to reopen this year)

Additionally, a report from consultants ARUP showed the 11 miles missing between Skipton and Colne could be restored with four tracks at a cost of £110m, creating a new Transpennine link, whilst reopening the Woodhead Tunnel linking Manchester and Sheffield could cost less than half a billion, and according to The Northern Way, would bring £10bn of benefits to the economy.

Stop HS2 Campaign Manager Joe Rukin said:

“As part of a pre-election gimmick, the chancellor is going to re-announce HS3, in the same way HS2 was re-announced just before the last election. Whilst we have always said the way to create a Northern Powerhouse is to spend the money in the North instead of blowing well over the official £50bn budget on HS2 and sucking more economic activity to London, like HS2, HS3 is the highest cost option on a white elephant which delivers the least benefit for the travelling public, but the most benefit to those with vested interests in building it.”

“The Chancellor is talking about spending £7-10bn on one fast railway line which will only benefit the richest who can afford to use it, and wait for it to happen. For just £1bn, you could have not only the electrification which he promised it four years ago, which had been delayed and is now on hold, but also you could have another two brand new reopened links across the Pennines, which would give the capacity for both passengers and freight and  deliver more benefits to more people more quickly for less money. It is amazing in supposed times of austerity that a Chancellor is advocating the least benefit, most cost option when so much more can be done, quicker, for less money.”

Penny Gaines, chair of Stop HS2 said:

“Numerous council and business leaders have said they want better transport links in the North more than HS2.  But the Government appears to be picking a single showy vanity project rather than looking to see if a variety of improvements which could be brought in more quickly than HS3.” 

“While £7billion or £10 billion on HS3 does not sound like much compared to £50billion on HS2, the expected HS2 costs has increased massively over the last 5 years and simultaneously descoped. Originally Phase 2 was going to include Liverpool, but that was ditched even earlier than the HS2 links to Heathrow and the Continent.” 

“We are really concerned that the HS3 proposals might be slipped out before the election, just like the flawed plans for HS2 were before the 2010 election.  If the proposals are so necessary, then they can wait until after May and be announced then.  Doing it now shows that the high speed rail lobbyists in the Department for Transport fear the next government will drop the plans.”

Penny Gaines added

“HS2 is a £50 billion white elephant.  The economic case uses outdated assumptions about business travel, and building it will be hugely environmentally damaging.  The case for HS2 collapsed years ago, but the Department for Transport seem determined to push forward none the less.  We call on all Parliamentary candidates to look closely at the plans, and for the incoming Government to cancel it as soon as possible.”


2 comments to “Budget promise on HS3 will be taking the highest cost option for another white elephant.”
  1. Pingback: Budget promise on HS3 will be taking the highes...

  2. Get you local authority and the parish council to bring a compliant to the Aarhus Convention Committee after this judgement on the grounds consultation was not at a time all options were available

    This cost order for Local Authorities will enable you to persuade yours to challenge HS2. Some LAs wrote letters to people in 2010 about the announcement and some groups started negotiating changes and still are when most of the people in communities are ousted from those processes.

    Read and apply the finding of the Court of Appeal and produce your Parish Council and Local/County authority submission to the Aarhus Convention it is simple. Do not feel guilty but take on the challenge to demonstrate where you were eliminated from alternatives through lack of public and group transparency. Many views and needs have been excluded from the alternatives for sites, access routes and power connector sites.

    Local Government Lawyer – Court of Appeal gives local …


    5 days ago – In December 2014 the Court dismissed an appeal by the London Borough of Hillingdon and HS2 Action Alliance, which had been seeking judicial review of the …
    Court of Appeal gives local authority Aarhus costs protection over HS2 challenge
    Friday, 13 March 2015 10:15
    A local authority is entitled to the costs protection conferred on claimants in Aarhus Convention claims, the Court of Appeal has ruled.

    In December 2014 the Court dismissed an appeal by the London Borough of Hillingdon and HS2 Action Alliance, which had been seeking judicial review of the safeguarding directions made by the Secretary of State for Transport for Phase 1 of the proposed High Speed Two railway.

    Mr Justice Lindblom ordered the council and the Alliance to pay the Secretary of State’s costs.

    There was no challenge to his decision to cap the Alliance’s costs at the maximum of £10,000 under CPR 45.41 and Practice Direction 45 paragraph 5.1.

    There was a dispute as to whether Hillingdon was entitled to costs protection. Mr Justice Lindblom capped the council’s liability at £10,000 and the Secretary of State appealed.

    In HS2 Action Alliance & Anor, R (On the Application Of) v The Secretary of State for Transport & Anor [2015] EWCA Civ 203 the Secretary of State’s counsel accepted that PD45 paragraph 5.1 divided claimants into two categories: individuals claiming as such and not as, or on behalf of a business or other legal person, and all other cases – and that on the fact of it, a local authority claimant fell within the latter category.

    However, he argued that this apparently unqualified category of claimants should be qualified by the exclusion of ‘public authorities’ as defined in Article 2 of the Aarhus Convention.

    Among the reasons given was that the new costs protection rules in Section VII of Rule 45 were intended to give effect to the access to justice rights conferred by Article 9 of the Aarhus Convention, but those rights were conferred only on “members of the public.”

    But Lord Justice Sullivan found:

    The wording of rule 45.41(2) made it clear that whether or not a claim for judicial review was an “Aarhus Convention claim” depended upon the nature, or claimed nature (see the last part of the rule), of the decision act or omission that is the subject of the claim”. It was plainly necessary to have regard to the Convention for the purpose of determining that issue, but once that issue had been resolved (affirmatively in the present case), further recourse to the Convention was unnecessary for the purpose of deciding whether the claim for judicial review was an ‘Aarhus Convention claim’ for the purpose of Section VII. Once it was established that a claim for judicial review was an ‘Aarhus Convention claim’ the costs liability of a party to that claim was dealt with in rule 45.43 and Practice Direction 45 without further reference to the Aarhus Convention.
    It would not be right to infer a limitation excluding ‘Public Authorities’ as defined in the Aarhus Convention from those claimants who can benefit from costs protection under paragraph 5.1(b) of Practice Direction 45 in an Aarhus Convention case. “To infer such a limitation would do that which the Government wished to avoid: it would undermine legal certainty and promote satellite litigation and thereby increase the potential for delay in the challenge process.” Inferring a limitation upon the type of claimant who could benefit from costs protection under Practice Direction 45 would be “doubly inappropriate” because CPR 45.43 expressly provided that the Practice Direction may prescribe a different amount for the costs cap according to the nature of the claimant.
    The Court of Appeal also rejected claims that Mr Justice Lindblom’s approach would lead to “bizarre consequences”, such as Central Government being entitled to costs protection if it challenged an environmental decision by a local authority.

    “In the great majority of cases, Central Government will be the defendant, not the claimant, in any environmental challenge,” Lord Justice Sullivan noted.

    “Given the deliberately broad definition of ‘Public Authority’ in Article 2(2) of the Aarhus Convention…., it might be said that excluding from costs protection all ‘Public Authority’ claimants including, arguably, those at the very lowest level (parish councils in the England), when they challenge on behalf of their local inhabitants major environmental decisions taken by Central Government, would produce consequences that were no less ‘bizarre’.”

    Lord Justice Sullivan concluded that the provisions of the CPR and Practice Direction 45 were clear, and it was “neither necessary nor appropriate to refer to the Aarhus Convention in order to place a gloss upon the ordinary and natural meaning of the word ‘claimant’ in Practice Direction 45”.

    It therefore followed that the Secretary of State’s appeal must be dismissed.

    In the High Court Mr Justice Lindblom had accepted a submission from Hillingdon that while a legal person could not be both a public authority and a member of the public in respect of the same environmental decision, the two definitions were not mutually exclusive in all circumstances.

    Hillingdon’s counsel had argued if the environmental decision was that of the local authority itself, then it would be the ‘public authority’ for the purpose of the Aarhus Convention.

    But if the environmental decision was made by another public authority, and the local authority was challenging that decision for the purpose of protecting the interests of its inhabitants under section 222 of the Local Government Act 1972, then the local authority, as a legal person, was as much a member of ‘the public’ as ‘associations, organisations or groups’ that might be set up for the same purpose.

    However Mr Justice Lindblom’s conclusion was obiter. The Court of Appeal declined an invitation from the Secretary of State’s QC to decide whether this was wrong. It pointed out that any view it would express would also be obiter, given its conclusions on the meaning of CPR 45.41-44 and PD45.

    Lord Justice Sullivan noted that the issue was set to be considered by the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee later this year, also in relation to HS2.

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