BUS services in and around town are set to improve as part of Swindon Council's 50 promises.

The councillors plan to deliver their pledge of working with bus companies to increase the frequency of services and hours of operation.

In the council's 43rd promise councillors aim to work with parish councils to develop rural transport links.

The council also hopes to increase the number of bus journeys by 20 per cent by 2010.

Since 2001 Swindon has bucked the national trend for bus use.

Against a general decline nationally the council and local bus operators have worked together to increase the total number of people using buses in Swindon, from 9.4 million to just over 11 million every year, an increase of 18 per cent.

Across Swindon there is a network of 27 routes, some with dedicated bus lanes and bus priority junctions, many of which operate every 10 or 15 minutes throughout the day.

Peter Greenhalgh, the cabinet member for planning, highways and transport, said: "Promise 43 is all about giving people genuine choices about how they travel within the borough.

"I'm proud of the fact that in Swindon we don't just tell people to use buses.

"We actually work hard with operators to make them more attractive to use, and that's reflected in rising passenger numbers."

The council is involved in a rolling programme of improvements to bus stops, including new shelters and raised kerbs to improve accessibility.

Bus operators have invested in newer vehicles and improved the quality and frequency of bus services.

A simplified fare structure and a range of travel cards have been introduced which now mean that frequent passengers can make significant savings.

There is also a successful joint ticketing agreement in place between Thamesdown Transport and Stagecoach.

Although there are 10 bus operators in Swindon, almost all passengers are carried by either Thamesdown - which is an independently-run commercial company owned by Swindon Council - or Stagecoach.

Coun Derique Montaut (Lab, Central) said of promise 43: "They should be congratulated on reaching their target but there is still a lot more to be done.

"There is a big issue about cutting down on the amount of subsided funds to Thamesdown Transport and other bus companies.

"People should also be encouraged to use bus services, but it is not helping that elderly people cannot use the bus with their passes before 9am.

"The transport policy should be high on the agenda considering Swindon's rapid growth."

The council claims more than three quarters of rural households in the borough are within a 13-minute walk of an hourly or better bus service, and initiatives to improve this further have been piloted.

There has been increase in use of dial-a-ride and the rural FlexiBus, which began in November 2004 to provide a responsive, accessible service for people in Swindon's northern villages who are geographically isolated and don't have easy access to public transport.

The FlexiBus service has seen an increase in passenger numbers from 33 a month in the first months of operation to nearly 100 a month now.

New bus services into new housing developments are also supported, using money developers are required to contribute towards transport.