The £42.7bn HS2 railway faces a fresh legal fight if the project's mastermind, Sir David Higgins, and MPs agree that the second phase of the route must go through Crewe rather than Stoke-on-Trent.
Sir David is expected to confirm his preference for a hub station at Crewe, an old railway town, on the western arm of the Y-shaped second phase in a report due on 27 October. Ministers would then need to concur, but this would probably be a formality since Sir David was hired last year to rescue a project that faced being overwhelmed by bad publicity because of its rising costs.
Mohammed Pervez, leader of Stoke-on-Trent City Council, warned that "one option is a judicial review" if Crewe were to be selected. He believes that the two business cases have not been assessed on "a level playing field", and points out that Crewe appears to have received resources from HS2 Ltd, the quango led by Sir David.
Stoke's appetite for a legal battle will be whetted by the belief that there would be £200m of local economic benefits if HS2 went through the city. Stoke argues that its route would also be faster to build and about £2bn cheaper.
"It's been unfair because HS2 Ltd and the Government have poured resources into Crewe," said Mr Pervez. He added that if Crewe were selected it would have to be proved that Stoke was not "negatively impacted" and there would have to be "a series of measures to counter any negative impact to Stoke's economy".
"If negotiations fail and our detailed analysis shows that a decision has been reached on the basis of a flawed process … then Stoke-on-Trent naturally reserves the right to challenge the decision-making process in all appropriate forums. This could include parliamentary interventions and, ultimately, judicial review," he added.
In March, the Transport Secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, said he wanted HS2 Ltd and Network Rail to look into accelerating construction of a hub station in Crewe.
An HS2 spokesman said: "Sir David will set out his thinking on the north-west hub later this month. He is aware of the strong arguments being put forward by both Stoke and Crewe."Reuse content