Lawyers on the line: high-speed rail plan faces 10-year delay

Details unveiled of second phase of £32.7 billion project which government claims will create at least 100,000 jobs

Britain’s HS2 high-speed rail line could be delayed for a decade as a unified coalition of Conservative councils, MPs and environmental groups threaten disruptive legal action.

The new £33bn line is intended to kickstart the country’s economic recovery, but Department for Transport officials now fear work may not begin until 2022, amid a flood of court cases and judicial reviews, The Independent can disclose.

David Cameron today promised that HS2 would “spread the UK’s wealth” and give a “better balance to the UK economy” as the route of its Y-shaped second phase from Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds was unveiled.

But the Government is now facing a concerted revolt as northern local authorities and backbench MPs affected by the proposed line unite with campaigners opposed to its first phase from London to Birmingham.

Michael Fabricant, MP for Lichfield and Tory deputy chairman, warned that Chancellor George Osborne, will now “see the strength of public opinion for himself”, with the line due to pass through his Tatton constituency in Cheshire. He added: “Every MP along the route will have people lobbying him. The people of Cheshire, like the people of Staffordshire, don’t hesitate to make their views known – and quite right too.”

The Conservative MP for North-West Leicestershire, Andrew Bridgen, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin today trumpeted the benefits of HS2, including increased North-South rail capacity, halving the current two hour eight minute journey time between and Manchester and London, the creation of 100,000 new jobs, and substantial investment boosts for major city centres,

Mr Cameron chaired a special gathering of the Cabinet in Leeds to discuss the plans, with ministers then fanning out across the region to make the case for the project.

Phase two running north from Birmingham along a total of 211 miles of new track will have stops and new stations at Manchester, Manchester Airport, Toton in the East Midlands, Sheffield and Leeds. Sheffield will miss out on a city-centre station with a new link built instead at Meadowhall.  High-speed trains will also stop at Crewe’s existing station.

But a planned spur taking HS2 to Heathrow airport has been put on hold until after the Davies review of Britain’s hub airport and aviation policy is completed in 2015.

Constituencies bisected by the provisional route for the second phase are located in Cheshire, Staffordshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, the East Midlands and Yorkshire. 

The government is due to finalise the precise route of HS2 next year in advance of legislation in 2015. Construction of the first phase is planned to start in 2017,.

However if a flood of judicial reviews and court actions over the legality of the consultation process delay planning authorisation, and ultimately require routes to be heavily redrafted, Whitehall officials fear that work could be pushed back to 2022.

This could also delay the start of work on the northern extension, which is due to begin in the middle of the next decade ahead of a planned opening in 2032-33.

The High Court is already considering whether the first phase of the project, which will take  is legally flawed. The challenge was taken to the court by campaigners who accused the Government of failing to undertake a “strategic environmental assessment” or arrange an adequate consultation process.

The legal action focuses on the London-Birmingham route, however its outcome will have repercussions for the entire HS2 project. 

Penny Gaines, chair of the StopHS2 pressure group, said she had already been contacted by constituents and local politicians in northern counties opposed to the provisional route of the second phase.

Ms Gaines said the gathering storm against HS2 was on course to produce “a strong alliance that included Conservative-run councils, MPs, activists from both the Green Party and UKIP, as well as a some Labour MPs and supporters who will take action to oppose this fundamentally flawed London-centric policy.”

Last week in the Commons, the Shadow Works and Pension Secretary, Liam Bryne, described  HS2 plans for his Birmingham city-centre constituency as likely “not to last 10 minutes in court.” He described plans to tie up land for a marshalling yard as  “a monstrous economic crime against the city.”

Councillors contacted by The Independent echoed Mr Byrne’s comments that the HS2 consultation process was flawed and would be legally challenged.

Councillor George Walton, a civil engineer and the mayor of Cheshire East, predicted there would be visible public outrage if the HS2 route was forced through “highly loved countryside”  lying south of Manchester.

Simon Jenkins, the chairman of the National Trust, said: “It is not a sensible project. If you’re going to spend £33 billion on transport in this country you would not spend it on this train.”

In Nottingham,  the local chair of the Campaign for Better Transport, David Thornhill, described the government’s plans as “environmentally catastrophic and wasteful”.

Professor Greg Marsden, director of the Institute for Transport Studies at Leeds University, said “It is hard to assess just what HS2 will achieve.”  He said critics could rightly round on the lack of precision and detail on what it would deliver for its “ big ticket price.”

The Chancellor,  George Osborne,  predicted the investment would become the  “the engine of growth” in the north of England  and the Midlands.

Positive reaction  to the plans included the TUC’s general secretary, Frances O’Grady, who said  HS2 held the potential to be “ a game-changer for the economy ”.

The British Chambers of Commerce, and the Institute of Directors, both welcomed the provisional route and the government’s commitment to new investment.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
video
Arts and Entertainment
tv

First full-length look is finally here

Arts and Entertainment
Stanley Tucci as DCI Eugene Morton, Sophie Grabol as Hildur Odegard and Christopher Eccleston as Professor Charlie Stoddart in 'Fortitude'
tvGrace Dent: Still, it's compelling and cinematically sublime
News
news

Rap music mogul accused of running two men over in his truck

Arts and Entertainment
EastEnders actor Danny Dyer has been rejected from Game of Thrones three times
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Frank Turner performing at 93 Feet East
musicReview: 93 Feet East, London
News
Toronto tops the charts across a range of indexes
news

World cities ranked in terms of safety, food security and 'liveability'

Voices
A mother and her child
voices
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
News
Tax now accounts for ‘nearly 80%’ of the price of a bottle of whisky
news

Arts and Entertainment
Peppa Pig wearing her golden boots
film

"Oink! Oink! Hee hee hee!" First interview with the big-screen star

Life and Style
tech

Biohacking group hopes technology will lead people to think about even more dystopian uses

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Continuous Improvement Manager

£41500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is going through a period o...

Recruitment Genius: Data Entry Administrator

£10670 - £16640 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: Regional Gas Installation Manager - South East England

£36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Regional Gas Installation Manager is r...

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Service and Breakdown Engineer - South East

£29000 - £31000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Domestic Gas Service and Brea...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee