Group plans court action over HS2


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The Independent Online

A group campaigning against the Government's HS2 high-speed rail project is to go ahead with court action to try to halt the £32 billion scheme.

HS2 Action Alliance (HS2AA) is seeking two judicial reviews of the scheme, whose first phase will see 200mph trains running through Tory heartlands between London and Birmingham.

The group said one of the reviews it was seeking dealt with environmental issues and the other was about "fighting for a fair deal for compensation".

HS2AA, which works with more than 70 local groups opposed to HS2, said that in dealing with the environment and compensation the Government failed to follow the proper processes.

HS2AA said that if proper processes had been followed, the Government would have reached a different conclusion about HS2, whose second phase will see a Y-shaped route going north to Leeds and Manchester with links further north to Scotland.

HS2AA said today it had had "a brilliant response to its appeals for funds for taking legal action over the January 2012 (Government) decision on HS2".

The group went on: "In a matter of a few weeks, thousands of ordinary people in communities from London to Staffordshire and beyond have responded to the appeals, giving most generously, and raising the six-figure sum that was needed.

"We have two strong legal teams who are specialists in their fields and believe we have two powerful cases that the Government must now answer."

HS2AA said the Government had 21 days from this Thursday to respond, with a judge being allocated to review the arguments and decide if there is a case to answer.

The first phase of HS2 is expected to be completed in 2026, with the second phase ready around 2032/33.

A Department for Transport spokesperson said: "HS2 is a project that will deliver jobs and prosperity across the entire country. Network Rail predict that the West Coast Main Line will be full by the mid 2020s, and have concluded that building a new line is the best option - with HS2 delivering £4 of benefit for every additional £1 spent compared to a new conventional-speed line.

"The line of route between London and the West Midlands has been continually improved to mitigate the impact on those living near it and the environment.

"We believe we have struck the right balance between the reasonable concerns of people living on or near the line (who will be offered a package of compensation measures), the environment and the need to keep Britain moving.

"The decisions by the Transport Secretary (Justine Greening) on high-speed rail remain as set out in January and work on HS2 is continuing as planned. We are confident that the process by which she reached those decisions was lawful, appropriate and fair, and we will be vigorously defending any legal challenge."