A £1 billion programme to hugely improve train services in Bolton and across the North is unlikely to go ahead because the Government says it cannot afford it.

But within hours of saying it was having “problems” spending money on the electrification of lines because of the state of the public finances, ministers backed London’s Crossrail improvement, which will cost £16 billion.

Last night campaigners condemned “out-of-touch” politicians for neglecting Bolton and its overcrowded carriages, and instead spending all their money in the south.

Preva Crossley, a local rail campaigner, said: “Again and again we are seeing everything good going south.

“If we were hosting the 2012 Olympics in Manchester, then we may have had a chance of getting some much-needed improvements here but everything is centred on the south and it is not good enough.

“The Department for Transport and the ministers need to come up and have a look at how bad the problem is with over-crowding because they seem very out of touch.” Responding to a question in the House of Lords, Lord Atlee — a Conservative peer — claimed that the coalition government remained committed to High Speed 2, which included electrification of lines through Bolton.

But he indicated that the plan, which had been mooted by the previous Labour government, would not be going ahead in the near future. “You will understand the problems about expenditure on electrification in the current economic climate,” he said.

As Lord Atlee delivered the news, Transport Secretary Philip Hammond said his government would find the £16 billion to spend on further improving London’s rail infrastructure over the next seven years.

It is a fresh blow for fed-up commuters, coming just days after Mr Hammond announced that plans for new rolling stock needed an “urgent re-appraisal”.

The previous Labour government announced three years ago that Northern Rail would be given 182 additional carriages and TransPennine Express an extra 42. But that number was cut by half last July before being further put in doubt by Mr Hammond last week.

Bolton West MP Julie Hilling said: “We need to grow our way out of the deficit and the electrification is key to regional growth. I would say that Great Manchester’s economy is just as important as as London’s.”

Bolton Labour Cllr Nick Peel went further, accusing the Conservatives of regional bias. He said: “We can’t get anything in the North West but the South East doesn’t seem to be having any problems getting Government backing for schemes.”

Now, the Greater Manchester Integrated Transport Authority and similar authorities in West Yorkshire and across the North have teamed up to lobby Mr Hammond about the need for new carriages.

andrew.greaves@ theboltonnews.co.uk