Coffee House

HS2 ruling: both sides claim victory

15 March 2013

4:47 PM

15 March 2013

4:47 PM

The useful thing about most court rulings in judicial review cases is that both sides can take from it whatever they want and make it into a victory. We had that last month with the work experience judgement, which was apparently both a victory for those who thought the government’s scheme was ‘slave labour’ and for those ministers who thought it was brilliant.

And today’s HS2 ruling in the High Court had the same effect. The government actually won nine out of the 10 points challenged by campaigners, so Transport Minister Simon Burns could call this a ‘green light’ to getting high speed rail underway. But according to former Cabinet minister Cheryl Gillan, that 10th point was in fact ‘the most serious of all’, and shows ministers have been ‘cocky’.

So what has happened? Well, here are the 10 claims that the case was fought on, and the court’s findings in each instance:

1. The government failed to comply with the Strategic Environmental Assessment directive. The Judge said the SEA didn’t actually apply to HS2.

2. The government didn’t comply with the Habitats directive. The Judge found this wasn’t required at this stage. The Transport department says it will continue to look ‘carefully at potential impacts on habitats’.


3. The hybrid bill for HS2 wouldn’t meet the objective of the Environmental Impact Assessment directive. The court said it was ‘premature’ to challenge a process when it hasn’t yet happened.

4. A planned Environmental Statement wouldn’t take account of the cumulative impacts of both phases and wouldn’t comply with the EIA. The judge said ‘there is no evidence that the Secretary of State for Transport is actually proposing to do an unlawful EIA’.

5. The 2011 consultation on HS2 strategy and the first phase of the route was unlawful on the grounds that the project was phased, there should have been consideration of existing lines, the government should have provided more information on current passenger numbers, and the route was refined during consultation. The judge dismissed the challenge on all four issues.

6. The government failed to carry out the appropriate level of minority impact assessment. The Judge said minority groups were not put at a disadvantage and the government wasn’t required to carry out any further assessments.

7. Three of the Transport Secretary’s decisions were irrational: that HS2 should terminate at Euston, that there should be a link to HS1 and that there should be a spur connecting to Heathrow. The judge said ‘that is not irrational and some might regard it as wise’.

8. The government shouldn’t have pushed ahead with HS2 before deciding what to do about aviation capacity. The judge said this was ‘untenable’.

9. The government did not give proper consideration to the Aylesbury Park Golf Club’s alternative route. But the court found that the department did give this suggestion conscientious consideration.

10. The government’s consultation on compensation was unfair. This challenge was upheld, and the government will now have to consult on compensation options all over again. Ministers say this will not delay the project itself.

So if you’re someone who lives on the HS2 route and you’re expecting compensation, then you might be chuffed that the government’s having another think about the money you’ll receive. But this has no effect on the timing of the high speed rail project. And one piece of bad news for the claimants: the government is now going to seek to recover costs from them.

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Show comments
  • Mark McIntyre

    NO2 HS2 – judge and jury !

  • Alex

    So compensation will increase? So when will we see the modified (and worsened) recalculation of the cost-benefit analysis for the project? Or will this be quietly billed to the long-suffering taxpayer, like so much else.

  • Daniel Maris

    OK. So the Tories will definitely, definitely lose the election now.

  • In2minds

    Cameron wins 9 out of 10 points, but not the next election! And yes these two things are related

    • Daniel Maris

      Absolutely. This and Heathrow expansion will cost them about 20-30 seats I think.

  • Simon Semere

    I made it to number 5.

  • Chris Robertson

    There’s no reason why anyone should receive anymore compensation – the issue is that people were not presented with all the facts when they were consulted. I can’t see the government coming to a different conclusion however, the HS1 scheme was perfectly adequate so why should people the other side of London get something different?

    As for ‘removing bottlenecks’, this has already been done on the WCML and further schemes are underway on that line and others too, but they do NOT represent a 30 or 40 year solution to the railways capacity needs. Further lines are needed, whether in London (Crossrail 2+3) or outside (HS2).

  • Grrr88

    “The government’s consultation on compensation was unfair. This challenge was upheld, and the government will now have to consult on compensation options all over again.”
    So this is what the greedy b*stards wanted all along

    • Emulous

      And they have not appealed the Wilmslow footballers wives section yet

      • Grrr88

        Who deserve all of our sympathy.

  • Smithersjones2013

    So the only real loser (from today not from HS2) here is the taxpayer who is likely to be screwed even more to pay compensation for Cameron’s vanity. Go figure…..

    • realfish

      The taxpayer will be screwed for costs, I presume, given that the applicants for the JR included a coalition of local authorities.
      Perhaps individuals should be surcharged

  • alexsandr

    its a stupid unaffordable project. The money would be better spent on removing bottlenecks on the current system, with more grade separated junctions and removing speed restrictions ans electrification. and new and better trains. The commuter lines around the midland and northern coties probably need the investment more.

    The line out of Euston is not the most overcrowded in the south east, lines to the south of the river have far more capacity problems that HS2 will do nothing for. The Southern system is a mass of flat junctions that make for slow progress and eats capacity.

    And the line out of Euston is not full. and there is an alternative route to Birmingham from Marylebone with loads of capacity.

    • Daniel Maris

      Yes. Once you get into the detail of the project, it’s difficult to see it as a good choice for the UK economy. We’re a small country. More important for us is dealing with congestion, as you say, not creating more of it.

    • padav

      So @alexsandr, presumably you are blissfully ignorant of the recently announced £37bn package of upgrade measures to the existing network, planned for 2014-19 control period. That’s a pro-rata annunal spend three times greater than that planned for HS2’s 17 year construction timetable?

      Is that extremely large headline funding figure, pursuing precisely the strategy you are advocating, also an unaffordable project – or how about the £16bn committed to CrossRail, much smaller construction project consuming a similar annual sum (£2bn) of taxpayer funding, benfetting a much smaller section of the UK economy (London and the South East, again!) – so that’s OK?

      Sounds to me as though you are applying selective blinkers in your reasoning process?

      • alexsandr

        I am aware of the the next control period. But so much of it is london again. This is London that has had the overground network, cross rail etc. And so little in the rest of the country. Northern Rail have to operate with a rag bag of old hand-me downs. Have you traveled on a pacer? Or been crammed in a 2 car train into Leeds or Manchester in the rush hour?

        Anyway, that doesn’t detract from the argument that HS2 is not needed. Small capacity improvements now will cater for growth. And forecasting demand so far into the future is not an exact science.
        If HS2 is such a good idea why is the private sector not queuing up to do it?

        • padav

          Same old nonsense I see – you’ve not put forward any argument concerning the need for HS2 that bears up to scrutiny

          Is the £37bn planned for the existing network coming from the private sector – thought not?

          You are utterly wrong about the requirement for a new line. Firstly, incremental improvements in capacity are being implemented, For example the lengthening of Pendolinos from 9 to 11 carriages, an extra service per hour and the planned flyover at Norton Bridge in Staffordshire.

          These improvements are relatively small scale and they will all help in the short to medium term but they cannot provide a long term, sutstainable step change improvement in capacity, reliability, quality and speed – only a new line can provide that solution. Passenger demand has been increasing relentlessly for the past decade and then some. The rate of change appears to be going upwards rather than slackening (9% alone last year).

          Long term demand for private car travel now appears to be in decline with record numbers of young people not even bothering to learn to drive, let alone purchase a vehicle. What will UK plc do in twenty / thirty years time with all of this additional travel burden falling on the rail network – govts. sometimes have to make tough calls about the future – HS2 (and hopefully 3, 4 & 5 thereafter) forms part of that wider transport strategy?

          The physical upper limits (in terms of free pathways) on the WCML will be tested within a decade so in fact the advent of HS2 really needs to be brought forward.

          The Northern Hub and many other projects outside London / SE.England are integral to the £37bn package of measures you’ve acknowledged so to claim that investment in the UK provinces is next to nothing is misleading to say the least – I’m from the North West and I want my Region to benefit from the connectivity delivered by HS2 – frankly the last place I’ll ever travel to on a HS2 service is London, just another place to bypass on the way to much more interesting destinations!

          • alexsandr

            but the long term requirement is not proven. Where is the evidence that passenger demand will increase at the same rate as we have seen in the past decade. Motoring has flattened out now against all the projections.
            And HS2 will only provide a service from a few nodes away from the existing network. People dont go from new street to euston,they go from Thame Bridge to Wimbledon etc stc. If i am on a local train going to new st, i will want a train from new st to London, not have to trek half way across brum to another station. People wont go by tram from Nottingham to toton to get a HS2 train, they will get a train from the city.
            And lastly we should look at railway debt. Networks rails borrowing is taking an increasing amount of their income, and the interest part of train leasing costs must be massive. and all a government liability, off the balance sheet. Yes we must improve the network but is HS2 affordable or absolutely necessary. And will it suck funds from other railway investments?

            • padav

              So your strategy amounts to patch & mend and hope for the best?

              Stop trying to confuse the issue here. HS2 is about providing a long term High Speed Rail backbone into which other services can integrate – you know that very well – do you honestly think HS2 is going to develop in a vacuum – you might like to imply this unreality, in order to support your argument, but it is utter nonsense

              Finally, the £37bn package of measures announced for 2014-19 control period (that’s more than £5bn per annum, compared with the £2bn per year allocated to HS2) gives the lie to any notion of HS2 denuding investment in the classic rail network.

              Please quit with the toxic cocktail of selective editing, half-truths and downright porkies in a blatant attempt to mislead and deceive public opinion!