Financial News

  • 23 January 2014, 9:07

HS2 Campaigners Lose Supreme Court Challenge

Judges have thrown out a legal challenge by opponents of the Government's £50bn HS2 national high-speed rail link.

Objectors hoped their appeal would force further ministerial scrutiny of the environmental impact of the scheme.

They said the case concerned "the most important strategic rail decision this country has taken at least for a generation" and the Government had failed to consult as widely as it had promised and to consider any alternatives properly.

Ministers were accused of "cutting corners" and breaching European environmental laws to push through the project.

But the Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected the bid by campaigners.

A panel of seven judges ruled: "There is no reason to suppose that MPs will be unable properly to examine and debate the proposed project."

There was no need for the court to refer the case to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), they added.

The legal challenge was taken to the highest court in the land by the HS2 Action Alliance (HS2AA), Heathrow Hub campaigners and local councils along the proposed route to link London, the Midlands and the North.

The Department for Transport has described HS2 as "absolutely vital for this country if we are to meet the urgent capacity needs we face".

Transport Minister Baroness Kramer said the appeal "had no bearing on the need for a new north-south railway" and the Government's handling of the project had been "fully vindicated".

"We will now continue to press ahead with the delivery of HS2," she said.

The minister said the network would "provide extra space for more trains and more passengers" and "generate thousands of jobs across the UK and provide opportunities to boost skills".

"It is part of the Government's long-term economic plan to build a stronger, more competitive economy and  secure a better future for Britain," she said.

"HS2 is also essential in helping rebalance UK growth - bringing greater prosperity to the Midlands and the North - and we are continuing with the crucial business of getting the scheme ready for construction in 2017," she added.

Emma Crane, campaign director of the HS2 Alliance, said the group was "very disappointed" with the Supreme Court's ruling, but added: "It is absolutely not the end of the road. We believe this is a wrong decision."

She accused the Government of "riding roughshod" over its obligations on the environment and said the group was speaking to its lawyers with a view to making a complaint to the European Commission on the issue.

Hilary Wharf, director of the HS2 Action Alliance, added: "We will continue to press the Government to meet its environmental obligations. The Government should be safeguarding our environment for future generations and it is simply the fact that HS2 is an unnecessary, hugely damaging project environmentally."

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