When It Happens Panel Get involved: send your photos, videos, news & views by texting 'OXFORD NEWS' to 80360 or email
Sole campaigner objects to London rail link plans
10:00am Thursday 14th February 2013 in News
A CAMPAIGNER is making a last-ditch legal challenge over Chiltern Railways’ £200m plan to link Oxford and London via Bicester.
Sean Feeney has been named in High Court papers as the sole objector to the project.
Mr Feeney, who lives in Summertown, Oxford, has launched his legal bid against the Department for Transport, Chiltern Railways and Natural England, listed as interested parties.
It is understood the challenge is based on the “process” the DfT followed to grant the rail operator a Transport Works Order, allowing it to implement the scheme.
Chiltern wants to double the track between Oxford and Bicester and build a new link to the main line between Bicester and London Marylebone, which will offer Oxford commuters an alternative route into London and a new link to High Wycombe.
Mr Feeney is no stranger to legal challenges. In 2011 he campaigned to block Oxford City Council’s core strategy, the masterplan for the city’s future development, but his legal action was rejected by a judge.
At the time, Mr Feeney was on incapacity benefit, due to chronic repetitive strain injury and back pain.
Despite having no legal training, the former Pergamon Press worker prepared his own case and represented himself.
When Mr Feeney was asked yesterday if he planned to do the same for his legal challenge to the rail project, he said: “I’m not going to comment to the Oxford Mail at this time.”
He also declined to comment on whether or not he was receiving Legal Aid to fund his latest action.
At the public inquiry into Chiltern’s project in January 2011, Mr Feeney, then 45, won an apology from the company after it referred to him as “some dude” when it listed online the evidence he had submitted.
Chiltern said last month that it hoped engineering work on the line could start in April or May and it could open by Easter 2015, if the legal challenge was resolved.
The firm said it had taken legal advice and had been advised Mr Feeney’s challenge would fail.
Because of the significance of the project, and the East West rail link, which will share the line between Oxford and Bicester from 2017, the Government has applied to the High Court to speed up a hearing of the case.
It confirmed the hearing was expected to take place next month.
A DfT spokesman said: “We haven’t been notified of a date but we expect it to be some time next month.
“We will be contesting the claim.”
Chiltern Railways said it was unable to comment on the legal challenge, as it had been made against the Government.
But spokesman Emma Gascoigne added: “We are very much looking forward to delivering direct trains between Oxford and London Marylebone.”