More than 34,600 people have signed a petition calling for more investment in transport in the north of England, after rail electrification plans across the country were scrapped.
Chris Grayling gave his backing last week to Crossrail 2, a £30bn railway that will tunnel under London, days after ditching a scheme to electrify some train lines in Wales, the Midlands and the north.
His suggestion that full electrification may be too complicated raised further doubts over the proposed modernisation of the TransPennine route between Manchester and Leeds, a project seen as critical to the “northern powerhouse”.
The petition, set up by the thinktank IPPR North and the campaign group 38 Degrees, calls on the transport secretary to give his immediate backing to HS3, a high-speed railway line from east to west across northern England, connecting Liverpool with Hull.
Ed Cox, the director of IPPR North, said the number of signatures laid bare “the real anger in the north” at recent announcements.
“The Department for Transport just isn’t listening,” he said. “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.”
Announcing that plans to modernise the line from Cardiff to Swansea, the Midland mainline and tracks in the Lake District were being dropped, Grayling said passengers would no longer have to put up with “disruptive electrification works” and “intrusive wires and masts”.
Analysis from IPPR North suggests the north would have had £59bn more in public funding over the past decade if it had received the same amount per person for infrastructure as London.
It said public spending in the past 10 years was on average £282 per head in the north, compared with the national average of £345 per head, and £680 per head in London.
The Infrastructure Commission last month named Crossrail 2 and HS3 as the projects of the greatest national importance that urgently needed to get under way.