High Speed 2 in the sidings as Court allows legal challenge

A number of opponents to the controversial "High Speed 2" railway project have been granted permission to bring a judicial review challenge to the scheme.  High Speed 2 aims to link London with Birmingham and, subsequently, Manchester and Leeds and possibly Scotland, by way of a high speed train line.  The plan was initially developed by the last, Labour, government.  However, when the Coalition Government came to power, it conducted a review of the proposals and then stated its support for the project.  It conducted a public consultation from February 2011 to July 2011, based on a slightly revised route to that initially envisaged by the Labour government.   In January 2012, construction of the London to Birmingham phase was approved. However, a matter of months later, a number of claimants have now been granted permission to bring judicial review proceedings in relation to the project.  The claimants include the HS2 Action Alliance, the Aylesbury Golf Club, the 51m group (which represents 18 local councils), and Heathrow Hub Ltd (who want the railway line to be integrated with Heathrow airport; an idea that was considered but ultimately rejected by the Government). The claimants have argued a number of grounds, mostly relating to inadequate or flawed consultation.  The HS2 Action Alliance argue, for example, that the Government provided inadequate information to the public on compensation and failed to carry out a proper environmental assessment.  The 51m group argue that the government failed to consult properly on the route, and did not take into account the impact on the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty or the impact on the London Underground Network.  A further issue relates to why the responses from these groups were omitted from the consultation response.  The court has set aside an extraordinary eight days for the hearing of these, and other, arguments starting on 3 December 2012.  If the legal challenge is successful, the Government may be required to restart the consultation process from scratch; clearly a major setback for the project.

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