SWINDON could become a beacon of rapid transport systems and pedestrian zones if the council's transport vision comes true.

But it could also become choked and gridlocked in less than a decade if nothing is done to cope with the town's expansion.

A series of ring roads, a giant car park north of the railway and a new bus exchange form part of Swindon Council's battle plan to tackle gridlock.

As the town prepares to accommodate 35,000 more homes over the next 20 years, the authority is seeking support for its Vision for Transport plan.

Unveiled at a meeting of the environment and leisure overview committee on Wednesday, the plan has a raft of ideas to stop the town grinding to a halt because of traffic jams.

Coun Peter Greenhalgh (Con, Freshbrook and Grange Park), cabinet member for highways, transport and strategic planning, said: "We want people to sign up to our vision of how Swindon could look.

"Swindon is recognised as being one of the fastest-growing towns in the country, but funding from the Government is not covering what we need.

"If we can get agreement on this vision we can go to developers and central Government to ask for assistance."

Among the suggestions are proposals for extended pedestrian and cycling areas in the town centre.

There are also designs to provide a transport corridor for buses if the canal is given the go-ahead in Faringdon Road.

A spokesman for Swindon Council, who worked on the proposal, explained why it was short on figures.

He said: "This is very much a document of aspirations. The vision is the top layer of three regarding transport, and is designed to work alongside the more concrete proposals of the local transport plans." Some of the more innovative ideas include car sat-nav systems that would direct commuters to the nearest parking space, and buses that act more like trams.

The ftr articulated buses, shown in the main picture, are built by First Choice and already operate in York and Cardiff. The spokesman said: "There is a perception that taking the bus is not a desirable way to get around, whereas trams are nicer.

"These buses ride like a tram, which fits in with our aim of making public transport more popular."

While the document is brimming with positive ideas, the consequences of not doing anything are dire.

The vision states that rush-hour traffic could be gridlocked in the town centre by 2016, with the town's road capacity of 60,000 vehicles - in the morning peak time - being exhausted.

Coun Greenhalgh, pictured, said: "Historical building, such as in the northern development, was carried out and a lot of investment was put into the roads in this area but there was no thought about the traffic being routed through West Swindon.

"In the future, with the Wichelstowe development, all key bus lanes are already designed and all houses will be close to bus stops."

The transport vision is expected to go out for consultation in May or June, by which time the Local Transport Plan will be in action.

It has identified a number of key targets to be hit by 2011.

The council hopes to reduce the percentage of main roads in need of repair from 20 per cent to 13 per cent.

It is also aims to reduce the number of people killed and seriously injured on the town's roads by 30 per cent and wants to get 13.1m people using the bus each year.

Traffic flow increase is to be restricted to 15 per cent between 2006 and 2011, while it is hoped that 10 per cent more people will be using their bikes.

Ninety-five per cent of buses will also leave between one minute early and five minutes late to improve punctuality and nearly half of all bus stops will meet standards for access by disabled people.