The deregulation of English bus services has been a failure, with passenger numbers continuing to fall, MPs have warned.
London buses' popularity should be studied, MPs say
The Commons transport committee found people had a poor image of buses and current arrangements could "not be made to work" without an overhaul.
Its report recommended councils be told to draw up plans to ensure traffic moves more quickly.
Bus firms should also sign contracts ensuring quality services, it added.
'Drivers seen as rude'
The committee's chairman, Labour MP Gwyneth Dunwoody, said: "The public image of buses needs to be improved.
"There is still a perception that bus services are generally unreliable and of a poor quality; that vehicles are old and inaccessible; that drivers are rude and that passengers are unsafe and uncomfortable."
Mandatory concessionary fares should be extended to the under-16s and others in full-time education, the MPs urged.
More research on the system operated in London - where services are privatised but regulated, and passenger numbers are rising - should be carried out.
The report also called for a strengthening of the role of traffic commissioners, who should be given resources to monitor the speed of travel of buses.
More bus lanes should be continued across local authority boundaries, ot added.
These must be policed rigorously to stop car drivers ignoring the law, the report said.
'Cut car use'
Mrs Dunwoody said: "Concessions for children to use buses to and from school would cut down on the school run and for those in full-time education it might cut the pressure on 17 to 25-year-olds to buy a car as soon as possible.
"A good experience of using buses when young could influence travel choices later in life."
The industry was privatised in 1985 and, in 2000, the government set a target to increase bus usage by 2010.
But passenger numbers fell by an average 7% in English regions apart from London between 2000 and 2005, the National Audit Office and Audit Commission found.
In the capital, the figure rose by 32%.
Last month, Transport Secretary Douglas Alexander promised to give local authorities more control over deregulated bus services, ending a "free-for-all" situation in some areas of the UK.
"Certainly in some places like Brighton and York the public and private sectors work well together. But in too many communities they don't," he said.