Five HS2 challenges granted December court hearings

Out-Law News | 31 Jul 2012 | 8:00 am | 2 min. read

Five cases being brought against the Government's flagship high-speed rail link between London and the Midlands will be heard in December, the High Court has confirmed.

Protest groups HS2 Action Alliance (HS2AA), the '51M' group of local authorities affected by the scheme, Aylesbury Golf Club and Heathrow Hub will have their cases heard together over eight days beginning on 3 December 2012, according to HS2AA.

The groups are challenging the lawfulness of Transport Secretary Justine Greening's January announcement that the Government would be proceeding with the project, known as High Speed 2 (HS2), on various grounds including environmental, lack of consultation and inadequate compensation arrangements. Some of the groups, including Heathrow Hub, have an interest in alternative routes.

In a statement on its website HS2AA said that Mr Justice Ouseley, presiding over the first meeting between the groups and the Government's solicitors, would force Greening to provide a full explanation for the loss of 413 responses to the original consultation process as a result of "processing errors". The judge said that the cases of the three parties whose responses had been lost - HS2AA, 51M and Heathrow Hub - could be amended depending on the response.

A further hearing could also be scheduled in October dealing with the Government's "continuing refusal" to release official data on passenger numbers on the existing West Coast Main Line, HS2AA said.

"The fact that three of the four claimants in this case have had their consultation responses mishandled is unbelievable," said Hilary Wharf of HS2AA, which has brought two of the cases. "But it did explain why the Government seemed not to be listening - because they weren't. The hearing in December 2012 will provide communities from Euston to Staffordshire with the opportunity so many have been waiting so long for – to show the court why we think the decision to proceed with HS2 was unlawful."

HS2AA's cases hinge on the Government's failure to conduct a full strategic environmental impact assessment before presenting the proposals for public consultation and a lack of information provided by the Government in relation to its consultation on compensation for affected members of the public. The 51M alliance of 18 local authorities is also challenging the consultation process.

A Department for Transport spokesman told Out-Law.com that the department "welcomed" the fact that a clear timetable had been set for the hearings.

"All decisions on HS2 have been taken lawfully and fairly and work is continuing as planned," he added.

The initial London to Birmingham phase of the 250 miles per hour HS2 line, which is scheduled for completion in 2026, will cut journey times between the two cities to 45 minutes. The proposed second phase of the project envisages the construction of an onward 'y network' connecting the line to Manchester and Leeds, as well as a spur to Heathrow Airport, by 2033.

Legislation that will enable construction on the project to begin is due to be introduced at the end of next year.