NEWS
30/07/2017 19:55 BST | Updated 31/07/2017 04:42 BST

Thousands Sign Petition For More Transport Cash For North Of England

Tory plans for transport face a growing backlash from northern commuters with 5,000 people a day signing a petition demanding a U-turn.

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 £30 billion Crossrail 2 scheme for London, days after axing or downgrading rail projects in Wales, the Midlands and the North.

The row broke out amid figures published by the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) North showing the north of England has seen £59 billion less spending 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 Mr 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 Mr Grayling, who accused Labour of under-investment when they were in power.

Ed Cox, director of IPPR North and who organised the petition, on the 38 Degrees website, 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 Government was committed to improving trans-Pennine services with £1 billion 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 £30 billion. The new scheme would start in Epsom, Mr Grayling's constituency.

The IPPR petition is at https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/crossrail-north-now

 

In a statement the DfT said: "Building transport infrastructure has the potential to drive economic growth, create jobs and spread wealth across the country. That's why we're spending £57bn on HS2, which will better connect Manchester and Leeds to the Midlands and London.

"It's also why we're committed to improving trans-Pennine services, and are working with Transport for the North to cut journey times and increase capacity between the major cities of the north.

"We are currently investing over £1bn to improve rail infrastructure across the North of England, and major upgrades to the Manchester – Leeds – York route are being designed and developed.

"We are also investing £800 million on new road schemes in the North West, creating around 600 jobs – including upgrading the M62 to a four-lane smart motorway.

"In spending taxpayers' money, it's vital for the Government to deliver value for the whole country. So while we have agreed to work further with Transport for London on Crossrail 2, we have also said that London needs to pay half of the upfront construction costs and we have not committed any public funding yet."