A rail company has come forward with plans to run a train service on a mothballed rail line threatened by a guided busway.

Laing Rail has proposed a low-cost scheme for the Luton-Dunstable line which it says would be quick and easy to deliver than the busway.

Laing has a proven track record, running the successful Chiltern railways franchise from London to Aylesbury, Banbury and Birmingham.

Luton Council's plans to convert the line into a busway, by contrast, have provoked intense opposition with many experts pointing out the folly of the scheme.

Laing suggests the Luton-Dunstable rail line could be operated between Dunstable White Lion and Luton Interchange (for connections with Thameslink) with intermediate stations at Chaul End Road and Dallow Road.

Laing says it could be operated completely separate from the national rail network but with the capability to be expanded and extended later.

Low-cost refurbished diesel units or new continental-style trains could be used.

The company quotes the example of the Lyngby-Naerum line in Denmark which is a locally managed line in an urban area and is reliable, busy and well-regarded by passengers.

Laing says its proposal is a starter kit which could allow for incremental upgrades. Use of a continental tram-train would allow for route extensions to Luton airport.

Bedfordshire County Council has already withdrawn its support for the busway, leaving Luton Council which meets on 20 April 2004 to make a decision - out on a limb.

The trackbed of the line is owned by the Strategic Rail Authority, not Network Rail, because it was disused at the time of privatisation.

Now it is time for the SRA to support a rail option by including it in its community railway strategy.

Railfuture members can help by lobbying for a rail solution and objecting to the Transport and Works Act order for the busway (by writing to the Government Office for Eastern England.

They can also point out to local councillors at Luton and Bedfordshire that the rail reopening scheme is better value for money.