A study into the possibility of reopening the railway line between High Wycombe and Bourne End has been branded a “vanity project” when money could be spent on new community facilities instead.

The controversial debate over the reopening of the old line – which was closed in 1970 – was reignited on Monday night at a full Wycombe District Council.

Criticising plans to spend £100,000 on a study into the possibility, Cllr Marten Clarke said the “precious” money would be better spent on “rectifying the lack of community facilities in some of the town wards or connecting the existing pipework to provide water to the planters in Oxford Road that have died of thirst”.

The Ryemead councillor also asked about the “practicability of reinstating around five level crossings over A roads and significant commuter routes”.

Responding to his concerns, WDC planning chief Cllr David Johncock said: “Officers are working closely with the relevant agencies on this project, including Network Rail and indeed one of the senior engineers attended a walk along the old alignment with officers back in June.

“You’re quite right that times have moved on since the old rail line was last in service. If the alignment were to be reused, the intention of all parties – including Network Rail – would be to minimise and if possible, completely avoid, new level crossings.

“Being aware of the very real technical and cost challenges, and the potential impact on residents, before we consider detailed engineering issues by way of the next steps and informed by the expert advice of Network Rail we are progressing a study to judge whether more detailed technical work should proceed.”

The study into the possibility of reopening the railway line is expected to conclude in the spring.