Posted 15th March 2013 | 12 Comments

High Court rejects nine out of ten complaints against HS2

THE Government’s plans to build a new High Speed Rail network look set to go ahead after a High Court Judicial Review rejected nine out of the ten complaints made against the project.

Transport minister Simon Burns said the court’s decision was “a green light for the scheme to go forward.”

But he said the Department for Transport would re-run public consultation on its compensation plans – the one part of the project that Mr Justice Ouseley ruled to be unlawful.

The HS2 judicial reviews took place at the Royal Courts of Justice from 3-17 December last year. In one of the ten claims against the Government’s handling of the project, objectors argued that the Government’s consultation on discretionary compensation options was unfair.  

The judge upheld that challenge, finding that the consultation process was unfair because not enough information was provided to consultees and the criteria by which compensation options were considered were not adequately explained. He also found that the Government had not fully considered HS2 Action Alliance’s detailed consultation response on compensation.

The Department for Transport said: “The Government will consult again on compensation options as soon as possible, but this won’t delay HS2.”

The nine other challenges against the HS2 scheme were all dismissed by the judge.

The Government’s response to the ruling was bullish, calling it “a landmark victory for HS2 in one of the biggest judicial reviews ever faced by a government.”

Rail minister Simon Burns said: “This is a major, landmark victory for HS2 and the future of Britain. The judge has categorically given the green light for the government to press ahead without delay in building a high speed railway from London to Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds.”

He went on: “HS2 is the most significant infrastructure investment the UK has seen in modern times and a project the country cannot afford to do without. The judgement ensures that nothing now stands in the way of taking our plans to Parliament.

“We will now move forward as planned with the crucial business of getting the scheme ready for construction in 2017 and delivering enormous benefits for the country.”

“We have listened to the judge’s comments about the property compensation consultation and to save time and public money we will reconsult on this aspect — but this will not delay HS2. We remain fully committed to fairly compensating the public who are impacted by the scheme.”

The next stages for the HS2 project are a consultation on the draft environmental statement in the spring and the deposit of a hybrid bill by the end of the year.

• A summary of the objectors’ challenges and the judge’s findings can be seen at

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • Melvyn Windebank, Canvey Island, Essex

    Those who talk about £33 billion being better spent should realise that Network Rail will spend more than this in the next year control period on the EXISTING NETWORK AND NO HS2 NO £33 billion! That's how the system works!

  • Chris Neville-Smith, Durham, England

    "My main objection to HS2 is that I think £33 billions could be better spent on other railway projects in the UK and could create lots more local jobs than HS2 will."

    I'll be quite happy to listen to arguments on what the money should be spent on instead if anyone comes up with a proposal. You do need to be aware, however:

    1) There are a lot of improvements committed to the railways already, and that's just up to 2019. You'll have to demonstrate that these improvements would come on top of what's happening anyway.

    2) The improvements you have in mind may not be as cheap as you think.

    3) The only viable alternatives to reliving the congestion on London Midland services on the WCML could easily cost around £8-10bn. That eats up a big chunk of the money you think could go elsewhere.

    4) Diverting £2bn per year between 2017 and 2033 means a lot of these improvements won't be coming for a very long time.

    Still, any proposal would be an improvement on the god-awful 51m "optimised" "alternative".

  • Adam, Birmingham

    @Tony Pearce

    Without HS2 there is no money so your argument about the money being better spent is irrelevant

  • Tony Pearce, Reading

    What are the costs of this scheme ? We have had £33 billion bandied around for about 3 years now. I haven't a clue whether thats over or under-estimated. I do know that more and more residents are falling into the compensation scheme and lots of additions have been made (eg Tunnel under the Amersham) which doesn't seem to altered the figures. I am very pleased that Hitachi train-building factory is being built at Newton Aycliffe to assemble (not design) electric new trains. HS2 trains may (will?) possible be either French, Japanese or Chinese assembled in the UK. But I doubt if they will be designed here. My main objection to HS2 is that I think £33 billions could be better spent on other railway projects in the UK and could create lots more local jobs than HS2 will.

  • Chris Neville-Smith, Durham, England

    "If this disaster can be delayed until the next election, there's a good opportunity for a party to gain votes by promising its cancellation."

    Yes John, you've been saying exactly the same thing in every post about HS2 I've read now.

    Out of interest, are you ever planning to make any actual arguments against HS2?

  • John Edwards, Woodford Halse

    The fight will go on. If this disaster can be delayed until the next election, there's a good opportunity for a party to gain votes by promising its cancellation.

  • Melvyn Windebank, Canvey Island, Essex

    On visiting the HS2AA site I noticed they still had "deadline 31January 2013" for compensation ! Makes this organisation look like they are only in it for the money!

    While I first noticed result of court case on large screen at London Bridge Station with only loss shown - Making it look like HS2 had lost when in fact they had won 9 - 1!

    It's time HS2 recruited someon of the calibre of Chris Green or Tim O' Toole to sell and defend the project and counter the many nonsenses the Antis are allowed to get away with!

    While a copy of "Britain's New Railway" which positively tellsthe story of the building of the CTRL would be useful if accessible on their website.

  • Chris Neville-Smith, Durham

    "There are reports in the newspapers (eg Independent) that the cost of this scheme has now secretly doubled and the designers are busily trying to cut costs."

    I found one farticle which said that "costs are expected to soar". The evidence: "... new figures have revealed". Quite happy to look at it again if they actually explain where that came from, but the Independent's record of fact-checking for HS2 is pretty poor.

    Unless someone puts some substance into this, this is about as reliable as the secret documents in Animal Farm.

    "I think the parallels [Concorde]. with HS2 are identical."

    The primary purpose of Concorde is speed. The primary purpose of HS2 is capacity. Coupled to the fact that Frence have binned Concorde and are continually extending the TGV network, there is very little in common.

    "Where are the HS2 trains being designed and built ? Probably not the UK, so no benefit to the UK there then either."

    So, in other words, you didn't bother checking any facts.

    Meanwhile, here in the north-east where we actually do pay attention to where the jobs are going, a new Hitachi train-building factory is being built at Newton Aycliffe for all the new faster trains for the GWML and ECML. It's been universally acclaimed as a great economic boost for the region.

    No decision has been made on HS2 trains yet (the Newton Aycliffe site was chosen about five years before delivery, so you wouldn't need a decision on HS2 until 2021-ish), but there is already talk of the Hitachi factory doing the HS2 trains too.

    I don't really appreciate unsubstantiated claims that would cost my county masses of jobs if the public fell for it.

  • Melvyn Windebank, Canvey Island, Essex

    However, what this does show is if we are to get modern infrastructure be it Air, Rail, Road etc what is needed Is infrastructure legislation similar to other countries have so everyone knows the procedure when a new scheme is announced!

  • Adam, Birmingham

    Good, maybe they can get on and build the line now...

  • Tony Pearce, Reading

    There are reports in the newspapers (eg Independent) that the cost of this scheme has now secretly doubled and the designers are busily trying to cut costs. That may be much more significant than this ruling. I visited an exhibition on Concorde this week at Brooklands. What a marvellous, fast, well designed, beautiful, technologically advanced plane it was. But it was always an economic basket-case from day one and it was the much slower A380 airbus that was to prove the future of air-travel. I think the parallels with HS2 are identical. This money would be better spent on improving the rail networks in cities. (eg Trams in Bristol) Concorde did however leave this country with a skilled workforce in design of advanced aero-dynamics. Where are the HS2 trains being designed and built ? Probably not the UK, so no benefit to the UK there then either.

  • Chris Neville-Smith, Durham, England

    Ho hum. If you ask me, it was foolish of the antis to bank everything on a judicial review. Ever since the WCML cock-up, the antis have been banging on and on and on that the DfT is incompetent through and through and their full scale of incompetence will be exposed by a judicial review just like the WCML franchise was. But the job of judges isn't to decide who's right or wrong, it's to decide whether the government has acted within the law. And as this scheme is going through an Act of Parliament, and Parliament can do anything it likes, there was next to no grounds to stop this.

    The proper way to campaign against an act of Parliament is, quite rightly, to lobby your elected MPs to vote it down. As StopHS2 and HS2AA have spent the last year pushing the idea that unelected judges should stop Parliament doing what it was elected to do, I really don't see how they expect to get any sympathy from MPs now.

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