North steps up rail demands

August 23 2017   | Region: North East & Cumbria, North West, Yorkshire & the Humber

North steps up rail demands
Rail commuters in the north of England took part in a ‘day of moaning’ protest on Monday amid concerns that the region is not receiving its fair share of transport investment.
Think tank IPPR North urged members of the public to write to their MPs and flood radio phone-ins and social media to share their poor travel experiences and sign a petition calling for more money for the Northern Powerhouse.
This came ahead of a summit of northern political leaders and senior business figures today in Leeds, which is expected to discuss the next steps to ensure electrification and other railway upgrades go ahead.
Last month the Transport Secretary Chris Grayling cancelled the electrification of a key route through the Lake District, arguing that the “disruptive” works are no longer needed as a result of new train technology.
There is also speculation that plans to electrify the trans-Pennine link between Manchester and Leeds are to be scaled back. Meanwhile, Chris Grayling gave his backing to Crossrail 2 in London and set out alongside the capital’s Mayor Sadiq Khan a way forward for the project.
“The Government still hasn’t engaged with the north seriously over this issue,” commented IPPR North’s senior research fellow 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 group’s petition, hosted by campaign organisation 38 Degrees, calls for a £59Bn ‘catch up cash’ investment in northern transport to match per head spending in London over the past decade. It also urges TfL style borrowing powers for Transport for the North as well as Government backing for the Northern Powerhouse Rail programme including a 30 minute ‘Crossrail North’ rail link between Manchester and Leeds.
Almost 700,000 people have signed the petition. Influential figures including Greater Manchester’s Mayor Andy Burnham and a number of MPs have also backed the campaign.
38 Degrees campaign manager Trish Murray said: “People in the north have had to put up with shoddy train services for years due to a lack of Government investment. This huge petition 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.”
A Department for Transport spokesman said: “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 £1Bn to improve rail infrastructure across the north of England and are spending £800M on new road schemes in the North West. Longer term, we are investing £55.7Bn on High Speed 2, which will better connect Manchester and Leeds to the Midlands and London.”
(Photo: Network Rail)

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