railway electrification

Government bombarded by signatures calling for cash injection into northern England transport

A petition calling for the government to invest more in transport in the north of England is currently attracting 5,000 signatures a day.

More than 26,000 signatures have been added to the petition for more investment outside London after a row over a North-South divide in government spending. 

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling angered politicians in the North by announcing government support for a £30bn Crossrail 2 scheme for London, days after axing or downgrading rail projects in Wales, the Midlands and the North. 

The row broke out following figures published by the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) North, which showed that the north of England has received £59bn less over the last decade compared to the capital.

Separate data analysis by Tom Forth, of consultancy ODILeeds, showed the vast majority of Department for Transport staff work in the capital and south east of England, leading to an “institutional bias” that “patronises” northern commuters, IPPR North said.

Leaders of Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield and Newcastle said Grayling had created “considerable uncertainty” and raised fears about the future of the Northern Powerhouse and the Government’s aim of rebalancing the UK economy.

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham and Liverpool City Region Mayor Steve Rotheram plan to convene a summit for northern political and business leaders in late August, before the return of Parliament.

The move was dismissed as political mischief-making by Grayling, who accused Labour of under-investment when they were in power.

Ed Cox, director of IPPR North and the man who organised the petition on the 38 Degrees web site, said: “It’s incredible we’re approaching 30,000 signatures, but this lays bare the real anger in the north at recent announcements. The Department for Transport (DfT) just isn’t listening.

“Its response has been to patronise northern commuters up-in-arms as mouthy troublemakers who need a good lecture on London’s special transport needs.

“The government keeps saying that London businesses will pay half of Crossrail 2, but it’s being tin-eared on calls for the north to get these investment-raising powers, too.

“Northern businesses would like to contribute, but we need Transport for the North to get the powers TfL has to raise investment for essential infrastructure. Businesses constantly tell me they’re willing to pay for progress and the government must now deliver on its previous promises.”

The Department for Transport (DfT) has insisted money for the north is not being cut, despite earlier pledges to electrify trans-Pennine rail lines to improve speed and capacity now in doubt.

Instead, new “bi-mode” trains which run on diesel and electricity are planned. Critics say electric trains are faster, cleaner and greener.

A DfT spokesperson said £55.7bn was to be spent on HS2, which will better connect Manchester and Leeds to the Midlands and London and the government was committed to improving trans-Pennine services, with £1bn being invested to improve rail infrastructure across the north of England.

Crossrail 2 will run across London between Hertfordshire and Surrey at an estimated cost of £30bn. The new scheme would start in Epsom, Grayling’s constituency.

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