CHERYL Gillan said an HS2 tunnel through the whole of the Chilterns is a more realistic prospect after nearly 2,000 petitions protesting against the project were submitted.

The petitioning process - which allows residents affected by the route of the line to have their say about the controversial plans and have the project scrutinised by MPs - closed at the end of last week.

A total of 1,925 petitions were submitted to Parliament during the course of the three-week petitioning process.

Mrs Gillan said many of the submissions from her constituents said the tunnel planned to cut through part of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty should be extended.

The Chesham and Amersham MP called for the tunnel to be extended beyond Mantles Wood, where it is currently set to surface from underground, to the other side of Wendover in a petition she submitted jointly with her Aylesbury counterpart David Lidington.

She said: "It's very reasonable to ask for this tunnelling, which I think will prove to be reasonably cost effective when you start to think what we'll save in compensation and disruption.

"The reduction in cost to the local population will outweigh what the tunnel will cost.

"I'm very much hoping we will have a good hearing for the tunnelling along the whole of the AONB.

"You can't have a nationally designated area, which is to all effects a national park, then be violated. It's a very precious part of the country."

The former Welsh Secretary added she was very encouraged at the number of people who had submitted a petition.

She said: "I think it's a really good number of petitions. The process is very complicated and daunting.

"On one day in my office we had 110 petitions to bring in to the House of Commons."