By Ray Fleming

Britain's Court of Appeal yesterday ruled that objections to the HS2 -- High Speed Rail 2 -- should not prevent the government from going ahead with what is now believed to be a 50 billion pound project. The Minister of Transport immediately said that legislation for the first phase of HS2 would be put in front of parliament as soon as possible. But the objectors said they intended to take their case to the Supreme Court for final consideration despite the cost and delay that will involve. On present plans HS2 will run from London to Birmingham by 2028 and be extended to Leeds and Manchester by 2032. It will cut about thirty minutes from the London-Birmingham journey but its critics say that is not enough to justify the huge cost which has risen by an estimated eight billion pounds in the past six months. Nor is there much support for the government's claim that the train would “open-up” economies in the Midlands and the North.

A coalition of 25 local councils, residents and other organisations likely to be affected by the route of HS2 argued to the Court of Appeal that the government had not undertaken adequate environmental assessments.

The planned route will run through several rural and residential Conservative parliamentary constituencies. Yesterday's Court of Appeal ruling was by 2-1, a marginal judgement that could easily be reversed in the Supreme Court.

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