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Fri June 25 2021

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Appeal court crushes HS2 challenge

25 Jul 13 The Court of Appeal has given the government clearance to keep working on the £42.6bn HS2 rail project, throwing out a legal challenge against the project.

The Court of Appeal agreed with the earlier High Court ruling that the government’s approach to consultation on the principle of HS2 and the phase one route, and on environmental and equalities assessments, had all been carried out fairly and lawfully.

Legislation will now be introduced in Parliament later this year, as planned, to allow construction to start in 2017.

Rail minister Simon Burns said: “By dismissing all 7 grounds of appeal and declining to refer the case to Europe, this is the second time in 4 months a court has rejected attempts to derail HS2.

“Parliament is the right place to debate the merits of HS2, not the law courts, and we will introduce the hybrid bill for phase one before the year is out. I urge opponents not to waste any more taxpayers’ money on expensive litigation and instead work with us on making HS2 the very best it can be.

“We continue to move forward apace with the crucial business of getting the scheme ready for construction in 2017 and delivering enormous benefits for the country.”

Legal comment

Lawyer Chris Hallam, infrastructure partner at Pinsent Masons said:

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"HS2 clears another hurdle as the Court of Appeal decides to reject the appeals against the High Court’s refusal in March of the judicial review challenges brought by opponents of HS2.

"In the March action, nine of the 10 grounds for challenge were rejected, and government has since accommodated the one successful ground by agreeing to consult further on compensation for those affected by the project. 

"The opponents, including the 51M group of local authorities, appealed seven of the nine grounds but the Court of Appeal has rejected the appeals on all counts.  The Court has given permission for a further appeal on three of these points to the Supreme Court. 

"The HS2 Action Alliance has said they will appeal but, given the comprehensive nature of the rejections in the High Court and now in the Court of Appeal, the secretary of state for transport will have moved judicial review challenge well down the project’s risk register.

"The next and most important step is the Hybrid Bill.  This presents considerable timetabling challenges but, contrary to pessimistic forecasts, HS2 Limited, the company charged with promoting and developing the line, remains confident that the draft bill will be laid before parliament on schedule in November.

"That is where the real challenge will occur.  Despite some siren voices, the leadership of all three main parties remains firmly committed to HS2.  It’s a long time until 2026 when the first trains are due to run, but HS2 continues to pick up momentum and nothing has happened to suggest  that those trains won’t arrive on time."

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