The latest challenge to HS2 was dismissed by the Court of Appeal at the end of July.

In HS2 Action Alliance Ltd & Others v Secretary of State for transport [2013] EWCA Civ 920, a coalition of action groups and local authorities brought appeals against the decision of Ouseley J. [2013] EWHC 481 (Admin) to dismiss various challenges to the Command Paper High Speed Two Decisions and Next Steps (“the DNS”) setting out the Government’s strategy for the High Speed Two railway to follow a “Y” network from London to Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds as well as the details of Phase 1 of the route.

The Court held (albeit with a dissenting judgment by Sullivan LJ) that the Government’s strategy was not a plan or programme which set the framework for future development consent by the decisionmaker (i.e. Parliament) so as to necessitate an environmental assessment within the scope of the Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive (Parliament and Council Directive 2001/42/EC) (“SEA”) and that a reference to the CJEU was not appropriate, given that the CJEU jurisprudence gave sufficient guidance on the broad approach to be adopted.

Furthermore, it was held that the parliamentary hybrid Bill procedure by which the Secretary of State intended to seek development consent for the two phases of the proposed network was a legislative process capable of giving the public an opportunity to participate effectively in the environmental decision-making process and that therefore there was no inconsistency between the use of the hybrid Bill procedure and the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive 2011/92/EU (“EIA”).

Other grounds, based on unfair consultation were also dismissed.

The grant of permission to appeal to the Supreme Court on the SEA and EIA grounds, notwithstanding, this judgment has been hailed by the Government as a further green light to Britain’s largest infrastructure project since the development of the motorway network in the 1950s and 1960s. As High Speed Rail Minister Simon Burns stated:

“By dismissing all seven grounds of appeal and declining to refer the case to Europe, this is the second time in four 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.”

Despite attempts, no obvious signs, then, of a derailing of HS2.