Almost 70,000 people have signed a petition demanding greater investment in northern transport links ahead of a meeting of the region’s political leaders this week.
Sparked by the Government’s decision to scrap several long-awaited rail electrification projects in Yorkshire and the North West, the campaign now has thousands of supporters.
Organisers have pointed to the numbers as a sign that the public are growing tired of ministers’ broken promises on infrastructure spending. They argue the pressure is growing for the Government to end the “North-South” funding divide.
Figures published by the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) North shows 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, leading to an “institutional bias” that “patronises” northern commuters, IPPR North said.
“The government still hasn’t engaged with the North seriously over this issue,” said IPPR North spokesman Luke Raikes.
“Instead it has tried to defend its plans by pointing to the small amount of investment it does make, or rehashing previously announced spending.
“The reality is that the government promised to fully electrify these lines.
“The North expects this promise to be kept.The facts are clear, whether in the official government statistics or in the daily experience of northern commuters.
“The best way forward is to deliver the fresh funding and powers northern commuters clearly need.”
The petition was launched last month following the announcement that the Department for Transport was abandoning plans to electrify the East Midlands line between London and Sheffield.
The project, which had already faced several delays, was expected to deliver faster journey times and would have enabled a switch to low-emission engines.
The news coincided with a renewed commitment to London’s £30bn Crossrail 2 scheme, and fresh questions over the future of trans-Pennine electrification.
This led to accusations that the Government had effectively “derailed” the Northern Powerhouse Agenda. The DfT has since stressed its commitment to invest in infrastructure projects across the country, including HS2 and trans-Pennine routes.
However, the IPPR petition urges ministers to provide “immediate backing” for a proposed high-speed link connecting Manchester and Leeds – dubbed Crossrail North – and a promise of £59bn in “catch-up cash” to make up for historic underspending in the region.
A breakdown of the signatories reveals high levels of support in Craig Whittaker’s Calder Valley constituency and Paul Blomfield’s Sheffield Central constituency. Trish Murray, campaign manager at 38 Degrees which is helping to run the petition said the high level of supporter “proves that people are fed up of with the North-South divide when it comes to improving UK transport, and expect the government to come good on its promise to Northern voters”.
“People in the North have had to put up with shoddy train services for years due to a lack of government investment,” she said.
“The fact the government dropped plans to electrify these lines, then announced billions of pounds for Crossrail in London the very next day just rubs salt in the wound for voters in the North of England.”
A Department for Transport spokeswoman said: “Building transport infrastructure has the potential to drive economic growth, create jobs and spread wealth across the country.
“We are 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.”