A KEY government argument for the HS2 scheme centring on train overcrowding is ‘misleading’, while northerners have not been properly consulted on the route, said opponents of the controversial rail plan during the first day of a judicial review.

Fifteen local authorities are at the High Court in London this week to present their case against the plan, which would see a High Speed rail run through the Chilterns.

Opponents argued yesterday that the Government consultation has been inadequate, key information has been withheld from the public and that a proper environmental study has not been carried out.

Protesters against the scheme were outside the court wielding placards demanding the plan be halted yesterday.

In a key development during yesterday’s proceedings it emerged that rail passenger load figures, which had been kept confidential until last week, showed that peak time trains from London’s Euston station were at just 52.2 per cent capacity in standard carriages in 2011.

Train overcrowding has been one of the key reasons given by the government for pursuing the HS2 plan.

51M say this information, which had not previously been released despite Freedom of Information requests, would have enabled the public and businesses to make a more informed judgement on the scheme during the consultation.

The group also argued yesterday that although the Government has taken a strategic decision to build the whole route from London to Manchester and Leeds it has, in practice, only consulted with people who would be affected between London and Birmingham.

Speaking after yesterday’s proceedings Councillor Martin Tett, Chairman of 51m and Leader of Buckinghamshire County Council said: "It is totally unfair that hundreds of thousands of people north of Birmingham, whose lives, homes and businesses will potentially be blighted by HS2 have effectively been denied any ability to take part in a major decision that will change their lives.

“I am also shocked that we have now discovered that the Department for Transport's key argument that the West Coast Mainline is full is misleading. Their own figures, released in Court today, show that the WCML is only 52 per cent full leaving Euston in the evening peak. This looks like another WCML franchise fiasco in the making."

Other arguments heard in court yesterday against the scheme were that the Government failed to properly consult on the alternative scheme proposed by 51m, which the group says would have met all of the forecast demand at a fraction of the cost and with a return on the cost to the taxpayer some six times greater than HS2.

The hearing continues today – the review is scheduled to last for seven days.