Mr Norris made the announcement in a statement revealing the results of the Bus Working Group which he has chaired over the past year.
The Bus Working Group comprises representatives from the local authority associations, the Confederation of Passenger Transport, the National Federation of Bus Users and the Department of Transport.
Mr Norris said:
'We all agree on the need for more stable services, geared more closely to the needs of passengers, with high quality accessible vehicles, pleasant and convenient waiting areas, attractive ticketing schemes, good passenger information, and traffic management measures designed to help buses.
'There is much that can be done, building on the present deregulated framework, to achieve further progress towards these objectives. But this can only happen as part of a co-ordinated strategy involving appropriate restraint on cars as well as priority for buses, and with co-operation on all fronts between operators, local authorities and Government.
'I am, therefore, very pleased that members of the group have already agreed a number of initiatives in this direction. I can certainly confirm that the department will be approaching the group's recommendations, and the further work which remains to be done, as positively and constructively as possible.'
The department will:
-- promote changes to the operation of bus services, designed to raise standards and assist passengers and local authorities;
-- look at operator entry standards, measures to curb unnecessary bunching of services and penalties for non-compliance relating to the registration and running of services;
-- publish, by mid 1996, a Good Practice Note highlighting the importance of good information for passengers and for the whole public transport network;
-- update 'Keeping Buses Moving' - a document which has been highly effective in promoting the case for improved traffic management to assist buses in urban areas;
-- discuss with the industry a timetable for the progressive introduction of fully accessible vehicles throughout the public transport network under the Disability Discrimination Act.
Mr Norris said:
'Local authorities are playing a full part in improving mobility through their work on new designs for bus stopping places, bus stations and shelters.
'I welcome these developments which will be essential if accessibility is to reach its full potential.'
Other steps will include:
-- the Confederation of Passenger Transport will aim to work up, with the local authorities, 'quality partnerships' intended to improve the quality of all aspects of bus travel within specifed areas; if this does not prove feasible under existing legislation then the Bus Working Group would consider whether to recommend that further powers be sought, possibly on a pilot area basis;
-- the targeting of enforcement by the Vehicle Inspectorate on those areas where improvements in vehicle standards are most needed, and the targeting of resources devoted to the monitoring of local bus services to ensure that buses run to schedule;
-- a look in more depth by the Bus Working Group at the problem of bunching and measures for controlling it;
-- improved industry performance through training and new Codes of Practice in the fields of customer complaints, emissions from idling buses and presentation of vehicles.
Mr Norris said that local authorities are making priority for buses an integral part of their transport strategies:
'I endorse this and will be looking to encourage suitable schemes when allocating local transport funding in response to package bids.
'Taken together the recommendations agreed represent a significant package which will result in substantial improvements in the provision of bus services.'