The planned 225mph HS2 rail line between London, Birmingham and the North should go ahead - despite a court ruling that a Government consultation about the new high speed route was “unlawful”, MPs have said.
The High Court has rejected nine out of ten legal challenges against the £33 billion scheme, after legal action was taken by protesters hoping to block it.
But a judge did uphold claims that the Government failed to run a proper consultation into how compensation will be paid out to people affected by the line.
Transport Ministers called the rulings a “a major landmark victory” for the rail project, which is expected to create 22,000 permanent jobs in Birmingham and the West Midlands.
And they said they had been given the “green light” to press ahead with the scheme because most of the objections had been overruled - although they also announced plans for a fresh consultation about property compensation.
Birmingham MPs said there should be no delay in pressing ahead with the line. The first phase, with trains running between London and Birmingham, is due to begin construction by 2017.
Steve McCabe (Lab Selly Oak) said: “It looks like the major hurdles have been cleared as almost all the objections were thrown out.
“Getting the compensation arrangements right is essential and it must worry the Government that they got it wrong on such a central issue.
“But it doesn’t seem to me that there is anything in these rulings that should delay the new network.”
Gisela Stuart (Lab Edgbaston) said: “This isn’t just a line between London and Birmingham, it is a network which will connect cities across the country. We need it to go ahead.”
High Court judge Justice Ouseley identified 10 grounds raised in the five cases brought by various opponents, including 18 local councils, scores of residents’ associations and action groups, plus farmers and a golf club.
He rejected nine out of 10 of the grounds, which included attacks on the manner in which the project had been steered through Parliament and alleged breaches of EU environmental and habitat directives.
He also dismissed allegations that the Government failed to take account of relevant issues and was guilty of indirect discrimination because of the impact of redevelopment of London’s Euston station on the local ethnic minority community.
The 10th - and only successful - challenge was a claim that the consultation and decision-making process on compensation was “fundamentally unfair”.
Rail Minister Simon Burns said: “The judge has categorically given the green light for the Government to press ahead without delay in building a high-speed railway from London to Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds.”