FED-UP bus passengers have come up with an old-fashioned way to re-vitalise services - bring back the bus conductor.

The idea for a return to the style of bus travel of yesteryear was made at the first ever Southampton Bus Users' Group meeting.

Some passengers want to see a return to the friendly double act of conductor and driver, made famous in the 70s sitcom On the Buses.

Passengers believe the idea of conductors would save drivers' time and make bus travel more appealing.

They also called for more use of Dial-a-Ride type services, and integration between rival companies First Southampton and Solent Blue Line, to include tickets that allow travel on any bus or any mode of public transport.

The users' group launch was the first in a new initiative of bi-annual meetings, triggered by public outcry over First Southampton's mass network changes in September.

It marked a major victory in the Daily Echo's Bus Watch campaign, which has sought to highlight passengers' concerns over axed routes and unreliable buses.

Representatives of First Southampton and Solent Blue Line were at the meeting to hear passengers demand what they want from their bus service.

The 40-strong audience - including representatives of the university, community action forums and pensioners' organisations - split into three workshops to share concerns and ideas.

The need for more bus lanes and greater priorities for buses was highlighted as a major demand.

Caroline Cahm, chairman of the National Federation of Bus Users, said: "Bus priority is absolutely essential. Buses must be reliable but they can't be unless they have very real priority over other traffic."

Other concerns expressed were the number of axed, unreliable and less frequent services; safety at bus stops; walking distances to bus stops; unhelpful drivers; lack of information at bus stops to inform passengers of delays; poor provision of evening services; the need for higher capacity buses during peak times; lack of consultation with the public about changes; provision of services to the hospital.

Users' group chairman Richard Williams, the council's executive member for transport, said comments would be recorded and some proposals put together before the next meeting in June. He added that the new Transport Act 2000 comes into effect officially in June. This requires councils to provide a concessionary fares scheme for bus passengers of at least half the normal price.

Mr Williams said: "Would people like us to move more towards a half-fares scheme and use the rest of the money to pay for more subsidised routes? I want to know what the people want."