Nearly 70,000 sign petition urging more transport investment in Northern England
Almost 70,000 people have signed a petition demanding a Government U-turn on transport policy ahead of a summit meeting of northern political and business leaders this week.
The petition calls for more investment in transport outside London and the South East amid claims of a huge North-South divide in Government spending.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling angered politicians in the North by last month 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.
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.
Tens of thousands of commuters have signed up to the IPPR petition calling for the promised Manchester-Leeds trans-Pennine electrification to go ahead and £59 billion investment in northern transport to match money spent in the South.
This week a major cross-party summit is being held in Leeds to discuss transport investment in the North, attended by the Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham, Liverpool city region mayor Steve Rotheram, and the leaders of Leeds, Sheffield, Newcastle and Manchester councils.
A range of business leaders across the region are also expected to attend.
Luke Raikes, senior research fellow at IPPR North, said: "The Government still hasn't engaged with the North seriously over this issue.
"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 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 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.
"We are investing over £1 billion to improve rail infrastructure across the north of England and are spending £800 million on new road schemes in the North West, creating around 600 jobs - including upgrading the M62 to a four-lane smart motorway.
"Longer term, we are investing £55.7 billion on HS2, which will better connect Manchester and Leeds to the Midlands and London."
*A campaign backed by the Sunderland Echo, Shields Gazette and Hartlepool Mail, is calling on the Government to carry out an inquiry into safety on the A19. You can sign our Safe A19 petition here.Last year alone, there were more than 70 people injured as a result of crashes on the stretch between Wolviston and Boldon alone. This is too many collisions and it simply cannot go on.
Added to the danger to drivers and passengers, the problems are bringing the North East and its economy to a halt - more must be done to get us moving forward.
With the backing of North East MPs, including Easington MP Grahame Morris, we want the Department for Transport to look at this issue and take action to protect our region and its people for generations to come.