A CONSERVATION charity claims the company behind a new rail line between Oxford and Cambridge is refusing to disclose detailed maps of route options unless a gagging order is signed.

The Woodland Trust asked the East West Railway Company to provide documents relating to five possible routes on a section stretching from Bedford to Cambridge.

The charity accused the rail firm of withholding the maps unless it signs a non-disclosure agreement stopping it from sharing the details with its supporters.

A public consultation on the rail line closes on Monday.

The Woodland Trust's director of conservation and external affairs Abi Bunker said: "Actively withholding information from a public consultation that they know may sway opinion is flawed and inappropriate.

"We have never been gagged when it comes to standing up for ancient woodland and we are not about to start now.

"East West Rail's decision makes a mockery of the planning process. People cannot understand the impacts and make an informed decision if they do not have all the facts."

Twelve areas of ancient woodland are under threat from the central section of the rail line, according to The Woodland Trust.

East West Railway Company's strategy director Will Gallagher said: "East West Railway Company is committed to protecting the natural environment as we develop this scheme, which will bring considerable benefits to the local area."