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HS2: Judgement explained

Heathrow Hub considerations not relevant in HS2 legal ruling, the court heard today.

Justice Ouseley dismissed nine out the ten claims (see box) brought the claimants over High Speed 2 (HS2) this morning.

Justice Ouseley dismissed claims by Heathrow Hub Limited (HHL) that the decision to press ahead with HS2 without considering a third runway at Heathrow as “untenable”.

He acknowledged that the Secretary of State and officials had failed to consider HHL’s full consultation response but that the process itself was not unfair.

“I was satisfied that the most important points had been either been considered, or were obvious points of which the Secretary of State was well aware anyway,” he told the court.

Claims by 51M - a collection of fifteen councils along the route - that a strategic environmental assessment was required were also thrown out.

Justice Ouseley said the 2010 Command Paper which set out the routes and stations for HS2 did not require a strategic environmental assessment.

He also rejected claims that it was unlawful the secretary of state to pursue the project through a hybrid bill.

“It would have been constitutionally improper for the Court to have ruled that the laying of a Bill before Parliament was unlawful,” Justice Ouseley told the court.

He rejected claims that the optimised alternative - through £2bn capacity improvements on the West Coast Main Line assessed by consultant Atkins - had not been properly consulted on.

“It was not unlawful for the Secretary of State to reach her decision on the consultation process taking into account two reports, one from Atkins and one from Network Rail, commenting adversely on the Optimised Alternative promoted by the Group in the consultant process, without further consulting the Group on these reports,” said Justice Ouseley.

Justice Ouseley also dismissed the arguments surrounding over capacity at Euston and a capacity crunch using the North London Line to link HS2 to HS1.

“Whether it was wise to promote a Bill for a high speed rail link which would lead to passengers trying to use what would anyway have become a very overcrowded Underground system at Euston, if no effective steps to add to its capacity were identified and committed, was a matter for the Secretary of State. It was not irrational or unlawful to promote the Bill in such circumstances,” said Justice Ouseley.

He also said that it was not irrational or unlawful for the Secretary of State to promote the Bill with provisions to solve the capacity problem.

Justice Ouseley to uphold HS2 Action Alliance - a not for profit organisation working with over 70 local community groups - claims over compensation.

He said HS2 Ltd had not provided consultees with sufficient information about options for compensation and was unlawful.


Summary of the ruling:

The judge:

  • dismissed challenges to the fairness and lawfulness of the 2011 consultation on HS2 strategy and the phase one route
  • rejected challenges that the government was required to comply with the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) Directive
  • dismissed challenges that the government failed to comply with the Habitats Directive
  • dismissed the challenge that the hybrid bill process could not comply with the Environmental Assessment Directive
  • dismissed the challenge that the government is required to present the environmental impacts of the entire Y network to Parliament alongside the phase one bill
  • dismissed challenges that the government has failed to comply with the Public Sector Equality Duty
  • dismissed challenges that the Secretary of State’s decisions on Euston, the HS1 link, and the Heathrow spur were irrational
  • dismissed the challenge that the Secretary of State has fettered his discretion, and predetermined the outcome of future aviation strategy
  • dismissed the challenge that the government failed to properly consider the proposed route alternative submitted by the Aylesbury Park Golf Club claimants in response to the 2011 consultation
  • upheld the challenge that the consultation process was unfair, because not enough information was provided to consultees and the criteria by which compensation options were considered were not adequately explained - he also found that the government had not fully considered HS2 Action Alliance’s detailed consultation response on compensation.


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