A direct rail link between Watford and St Albans could be ripped up and converted into a concrete "busway", in what campaigners have labelled a "disastrous" move.

Hertfordshire County Council said it is looking at replacing the Abbey Line with two parallel busways - in a scheme known as Bus Rapid Transit (BRT).

The proposal was first considered last year, but abandoned after 80 per cent of those consulted said they did not want the scheme to go ahead.

Abbey Line campaigners had previously called for a complete refurbishment of the "tatty" trains, direct trains into London and services to be extended to midnight.

Robin White from The Abbey Flyer Users Group said: "We cannot believe this idea is even being considered again.

"We have been fighting for improvements to the line for 20 years.

"Rather than champion relatively simple and well-understood improvements, the council want to waste millions of pounds of taxpayers money on a potentially expensive, unreliable, environmentally damaging BRT."

The report said the line provides a chance to develop a "radical solution" that operates at lower costs and attracts more users.

However, campaigners fear the trackway itself does not have the durability of rail.

Mr White added: "Perhaps most devastatingly of all, from the environmental perspective, the scheme would mean the Abbey Line’s rails and overhead line would have to be ripped up, and the character of the branch would be irrevocably changed through the pouring of thousands of tonnes of concrete to create the guideways.

"The permanent damage caused by busways is also significant."

The line, which runs from St Albans Abbey to Watford Junction, currently carries around 1,700 passengers on an average weekday Joe Ashley regularly uses the line.

The 37-year-old who lives near Watford Junction said: "This would be a disaster for commuters. We are always having bus routes cut, and now they are proposing more buses?"

Similar schemes have been pushed through elsewhere by other local authorities, including the £100 million scheme in Luton, which campaigners say is underperforming with usage figures about 50 per cent of those predicted.

Liberal Democrat parliamentary spokesperson for Watford Ian Stotesbury said light rail was a better option. He said: “The Abbey Line is a lifeline for thousands of residents in North Watford, Garston and Meriden who work in St Albans or use the line to change at Watford Junction to get to London.

"With passenger numbers increasing across the rail network it makes no sense to rip up the tracks and replace them with a bus lane.

“At a time when the much-needed redevelopment of Watford Junction is on the agenda it makes sense to discuss improving rail connections rather than removing them.”

The county council's head of transport Derrick Ashley said: “There is widespread recognition that improving east west links across Hertfordshire must be a priority for the future.

"The Abbey Line is a key component of this corridor and we need to consider how we integrate it into the wider transport needs of Hertfordshire.

“The consultation seeks views on whether there is a need for a new east-west passenger transport system that would support economic growth and reduce congestion.

"The initial thoughts on possible routes include the Watford to St Albans corridor, but we are open to views on how the existing rail service relates to this concept.

“There is a lot of further work to be undertaken to develop the ideas further once the response to the consultation is known.”

To view the consultation, visit: www.hertfordshire.gov.uk/transportvision2050.