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Rail project: Government £33bn rail link may face legal challenge

Opponents of the proposed high-speed rail link HS2 which will link London with Birmingham and beyond may launch a legal challenge in the UK and in Europe to prevent the work from going ahead.

The HS2 Action Alliance (HS2AA) have written to Transport Secretary Justine Greening to indicate that she should abandon the scheme or face a legal challenge via judicial review.

The HS2 link is the latest in a long-term plan which will see several cities in the UK connected by high speed link.

HS1, the first line in the project was completed in 2007, and links the channel tunnel to London St Pancras. HS2 will run from St Pancras up to Birmingham, with later high-speed lines proposed to run from Birmingham to Manchester and also to Leeds.

The HS2 project has the support of all the main political parties in the UK; however, there are disagreements on the exact routes which the lines should follow, as well as debate on which cities they should run to.

Last month Ms Greening signalled the go ahead for the HS2 section of the project.

The HS2AA have informed Ms Greening that their judicial review will focus on the failure of the Government to comply with legally binding requirements of the Strategic Environmental Assessment Regulations 2004 and the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010. These require a full assessment of any infrastructure project with alternatives which must be completed before any proposals are passed for public consultation.

The group has also informed the EU Commission of the Government's failure to comply with EU law on the matter.

HS2AA claim that their action is supported by four wildlife trusts and over 70 local groups.

A spokesman for the Department of Transport said: "HS2 is a project that will deliver jobs and prosperity across the entire country."

"Network Rail has predicted that the West Coast Main Line will be full by the mid-2020s and have concluded that building a new line is the best option, with HS2 delivering £4 of benefit for every additional £1 spent compared to a new conventional-speed line," he added.

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