North vows to fight for fair transport cash deal after £30bn south-east plans


Furious political leaders in the north of England are pledging to fight for a fair deal on transport cash after the Government announced cuts for the north but billions more for the south.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has sparked anger by approving £30 billion plans for Crossrail 2 in London and the south east, days after a series of rail projects in Wales, the Midlands and the north were downgraded or axed.

The decision has been described as a betrayal of the north with London "jumping the queue" on regions waiting spending on transport.

Leaders in Manchester, Liverpool, West Yorkshire and Sheffield have lined up to criticise the plans, highlighting the north-south funding gap.

One scheme, the electrification of the line between Leeds and Manchester, part of a wider plan to upgrade the entire transpennine line west from Liverpool, to Hull and Newcastle, was seen as a key element of the "Northern Powerhouse" to boost the economy across the region through a "Crossrail for the North".

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, is urging other city mayors and council leaders to join to get a better deal for the north.

And think tank the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) North has launched a petition calling for the Government to fund Crossrail for the North.

Ed Cox, director of IPPR North, said: "To approve or back Crossrail 2 ahead of backing the Northern Powerhouse rail programme is really rubbing salt into the wounds.

"And to do it when Parliament's in recess and there can't be further questions of the decision taken creates greater anger and resentment.

"We are going to be calling for the Transport Secretary to pledge backing for Crossrail for the north.

"Over the past decade we have spent £59 billion more in London than in the north of England so over the next decade there's £59 billion catch-up cash should be devolved to transport for the north.

"Actually there's huge economic potential in the north of England. But we need to invest in the north, it's just very short sighted to be constantly mitigating congestion in the south rather than investing in the north."

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 own constituency.

Crossrail 1, already under construction in London, is estimated to cost £14.8 billion and runs through Maidenhead, whose MP is Theresa May.

Research by the IPPR North shows what it called a "scandal" of unfair investment in London and the south east above the regions, with the north missing out on £6 billion each year in taxpayer's cash.

It says this regional imbalance fuelled the Brexit vote, and a sense that the rest of the UK is left-behind the capital's success.

Mr Burnham, speaking on BBC's Newsnight last night hours after the Crossrail 2 announcement, said: "I think the Government will be making a major mistake if it underestimates the fury that people here feel when they see those announcements last week and then they hear today that billions more is about to be spent on London.

"Number one Crossrail 2 was not in the Conservative manifesto so on what basis has it gone to the front of the queue ahead of the North?"

He said he and other mayors and council leaders will now consider the best way to challenge the Government's "neglect" of the north.

Mr Grayling has denied abandoning electrification upgrades for the north but suggested instead the use of "bi-mode" trains which run on diesel and electricity. Critics say electric trains are faster, cleaner and greener.

The Department for Transport say £1 billion is already being invested to improve rail infrastructure across the North of England, as well as £800 million on new road schemes.

The IPPR petition will petition is being launched on the 38 Degrees website.

Parliament's website is not accepting new petitions until after MPs return in September.