A NEW route is being considered which would take the proposed £5.6 billion Central Railway line and its freight trains away from the High Wycombe area.

Consultants have been commissioned by the South East England Development Agency (Seeda) to draw up an alternative line for the southern end of the north-south route. This would go east of London, not west. Its report should be ready in about three months.

The decision to reconsider the Central Railway route was taken after a meeting of county council leaders and officers at Gerrards Cross a few weeks ago.

It was hosted by David Shakespeare, leader of Buckinghamshire County Council and chairman of the South East Regional Assembly, and Seeda chairman Allan Willett.

They realised they must support the strategy of getting heavy freight traffic off roads and on to rail, but if they were not to have a route they didn't like they would have to come up with their own.

The current proposed route travels through the middle of Buckinghamshire and along the Chiltern Line through Haddenham, Princes Risborough and High Wycombe. The proposal created an outcry from people along this part of the line, who say they gain no immediate benefit, only noise.

After the Gerrards Cross meeting, Cllr Shakespeare told the Free Press the feedback he had from it was that the line went round the wrong side of London. It should go through Milton Keynes and via the area known as Thames Gateway a growth area.

Regional assembly leaders in the north of England are in favour of the Central Railway project with only the south-east region against it.

Central Railway wants the Government to introduce another bill in the Commons. People would give evidence at the committee stage and there would be no need for two or three years of planning inquiries.

Chris Williams, the council's chief officer, said there was lots of pressure for the scheme from northern regions. "They get lots of benefits from it, which is the opposite of the south, which gets disbenefits," he said.

County councillor David Rowlands, vice-chairman of a consortium of county councillors looking at public transport, said he had discussed the idea with members.

"I am pleased that Seeda has commissioned W S Atkins to review the route," he said. But he said leaders in the north wanted it to go west of London so that there would be good links to the M25 and the motorways to the west of the country.

A Central Railway spokesman said: "Central Railway has undertaken extensive engineering studies using international consultants, and the route to the west of London emerged as our preferred route."