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High Court sees last ditch attempt to stop BNRR

ANTI-ROADS campaigners have made a final legal bid to reverse Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott's go ahead for the UK's first directly tolled motorway.

Legal action to quash orders for the 43km Birmingham Northern Relief Road started in the High Court in London on Monday.

The Alliance Against BNRR claims that Prescott acted illegally as he was influenced by the cost of cancelling the 53 year concession agreement. It believes he also failed to use his powers to regulate the tolls that concessionaire Midland Expressway Ltd - a joint venture between Kvaerner and Italian tolling specialist Autostrada - can charge.

Representing the Alliance, John Howell QC said: 'The Secretary of State may have felt he was in an agreement and would be in breach if the road did not go ahead and be liable to pay substantial damages.'

The Government and MEL argued that compensation for cancelling the agreement did not form a significant part of the decision, and that the scheme has already been through a 200 day public inquiry costing pounds10M. 'We are confident that the protesters' narrow points of legal contention will be completely rejected by the High Court. We see this as the last hurdle preventing construction,' said MEL managing director Tom Smith.

The judge, Mr Justice Latham, was considering his verdict as NCE went to press.

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