HS2 and the extent of historic legal decision

Exclusions HS2 (HS2 Rebellion)Image HS2 Rebellion

Britain’s vast HS2 high-speed rail project has been the subject of constant controversy and protest. However, the company formed to build the express railway, initially between London and Birmingham, has won a landmark legal battle in an attempt to ensure its work progresses without further delay. The court ruling excludes all but authorised personnel from the entire 170-mile long (270km) construction site.

Europe’s biggest single civil engineering project now has Britain’s biggest single legal ruling in its favour. HS2 Limited, the company formed to manage the construction project and the array of contractors, had sought recourse in the courts in order to continue its work unimpeded by further physical incursions onto its entire construction site. Objectors to the project have stressed that the court order does not forbid objections to the project.

High rise, high reward for HS2

In May of this year, HS2 brought a civil action in the High Court, the highest level in the English legal system for non-criminal matters. As reported at the time, that was considered a high-risk legal strategy since there is only recourse on appeal beyond that to the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court. Both those appeal courts require significant burdens of proof to overturn a High Court ruling.

HS2 sites such as Curzon Street in Birmingham are now protected from protestors by a High Court ruling (Image HS2)

HS2 has claimed that its work has been unduly harassed by protestors. In addition to highly organised objectors in locations such as Buckinghamshire, just north of London, and the Cotswolds countryside, the project has faced the wrath of prominent environmentalists – such as the TV presenter Chris Packham – who have used their media profile to put their case against the project. Their involvement has been said to have encouraged the level of direct action that HS2 has successfully sought to outlaw.

The freight element

The HS2 company is currently engaged in building the new railway between London and Birmingham, with an extension to Crewe to join the project directly to the West Coast Main Line. Although the line is some years away from completion, it is expected to relieve congestion on the WCML, freeing up paths for more regional trains and freight services.

Full steam ahead for HS2 in the light of the High Court ruling (HS2)

Despite all the objections, the environmental credentials of the project have been equally well promoted. Although the line is not intended to carry freight, the construction phase is already planned to generate 15,000 freight train movements, consequently avoiding a correspondingly huge number of road truck movements. The Company also says there are now almost 25,000 jobs supported by the programme and thousands of UK businesses directly helping to build the railway.

Costs of the legal action have not been revealed, but media reports put the actual costs of confronting protestors at 122 million pounds (over 145 million euros). The entire HS2 project is costed at around 100 billion pounds (119 billion euros). Construction is underway between Crewe and London, and earlier this year, HS2 submitted the Crewe–Manchester Bill to Parliament to extend the high-speed network north to Manchester.

**UK businesses can soon share their stories in a full-colour digital magazine tailored to the UK rail industry. The RailFreight UK Christmas Special will be published on 15 December. Details, including how to take part, can be found here.

Author: Simon Walton

Simon Walton is RailFreight's UK correspondent.

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