CAMPAIGNERS made their voices heard at a packed debate on Friday evening as they slammed plans to introduce a new transport link.

The debate at Reading School, organised by the Save Our Ancient Riverside (SOAR) group, resulted in 91 per cent of guests voting against the East Reading Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) scheme.

The proposed £31.5m MRT bus-only link has provoked an outcry from the public, as well as objections from the Environment Agency, Reading Sports and Leisure and the Wildlife Trust.

Councillor Tony Page, deputy leader of the council, was among the advocates for the scheme, which aims to reduce congestion and improve air quality.

John Sharpe, spokesman for SOAR, said: "Tony Page tried to defend the MRT against an increasingly sceptical audience.

"Although nobody was left with the impression that he was any more likely to listen to residents than he usually is, we can only hope for a Christmas Carol-like change of heart on his part.

"SOAR is calling for Tony Page to give Reading an early Christmas present by abandoning the pernicious scheme."

Substantial funding was unlocked for the project from Thames Valley Berkshire Local Enterprise Partnership last month.

Green Party members previously branded the project as the 'Labour Road to Nowhere' and said the scheme would 'destroy' the wildlife along the River Thames.

Councillor Rob White spoke against the scheme. He said: "This seems like a Labour-run council that has totally run out of ideas and is willing to spend £20 million on yet another vanity project.”

Cllr Page added: “Reading continues to grow and firmly remains the economic capital of the Thames Valley region.

“With this success comes increasing demands on limited road space. The only realistic way we can absorb that growth is by making sustainable travel choices quicker and more attractive to people.

“The East Reading MRT proposal will help to manage and accommodate the very substantial growth planned over the next 20 years in the Wokingham area and reduce the impact of this growth on residents in Reading.”

Reading and Wokingham councillors are expected to meet in the New Year in order to discuss the MRT.