MAJOR bus operators pledged regular buses on all routes - guaranteed - as they unveiled their strategy for services in Bolton and across the region.

Greater Manchester Bus Operators' Association says it will commit to providing services at 10-minute intervals, seven days a week, for five-year periods on all "primary" routes linking towns like Bolton to Manchester city centre.

The association, representing 20 companies including First, Arriva and Stagecoach, would also guarantee services at pre-defined intervals on all other routes for three-year periods.

GMBOA chairman Mark Threapleton said: "Where there's an operator which runs services between a Bolton housing estate and the town centre, under this plan, it would continue to operate that route for a three-year period to a consistent level of quality."

However, he said the plan could only work through a partnership approach with the region's Passenger Transport Authority (PTA).

The government is currently consulting on its draft passenger transport bill, which would give authorities greater powers to dictate where and when operators provide buses through contracts.

Bus companies would fight any plans to impose greater control and Mr Threapleton said the only way to get the necessary improvements in place in time for the proposed introduction of congestion charging around Manchester in 2012 was through cooperation.

Mr Threapleton said investment in measures such as bus lanes to cut congestion would free up more buses, currently tied up in traffic during peak times, for less-frequently served routes.

Bolton's PTA spokesman Cllr Nick Peel said he had not seen the operators' plans. But he said: "I don't think we can sort out the growing problems within the region's public transport and road network problems unless local authorities get the powers they need."