BUS users will be able to use one ticket on main Oxford routes from next month, in a move bosses say will cut city centre bus traffic by a quarter.

Stagecoach and the Oxford Bus Company will co-ordinate their timetables and ticket operations from Sunday July 24, the first scheme of its kind in the UK.

A smartcard system will mean “one ticket, any bus” for passengers, with the city effectively being served by one major bus network.

The SmartZone scheme will offer joint ticketing deals on Oxford Bus Company, Stagecoach and Thames Travel routes within Oxford. Existing cards can still be used.

And 46 double-deck buses have been bought for £12m for the launch for both firms. Bus company bosses said this, along with joint timetabling, will take hundreds of buses off city centre roads.

From July 24, passengers on routes from Blackbird Leys, Rose Hill, Kidlington, Barton and Risinghurst will be able to board the first bus that arrives, operated by either company.

Timetables will be overhauled, with services from Blackbird Leys and along the Cowley Road scheduled every three to four minutes, from Kidlington every five minutes, from Barton every six minutes and from Rose Hill every seven to eight minutes.

The deal is the first of its kind to use powers under the Local Transport Act 2008, designed to allow councils and bus operators to work closely together. Oxfordshire County Council is behind the scheme.

Oxford Bus Company managing director Philip Kirk said: “The three partners in the agreement have been working together to deliver a better bus network with lower emission vehicles and easier access.

“It’s good news for Oxford and for people using buses in Oxford.”

Stagecoach managing director Martin Sutton said: “The new timetables and smarter ticketing option will make a huge difference to passengers, giving them access to a much bigger bus network and the flexibility to get on the first bus that comes along, as well as offering good deals.”

Transport minister Norman Baker said: “Oxford is leading the way in providing better local transport services by using a partnership approach and making use of smart ticketing technology.

“This scheme will deliver greater flexibility and better services for passengers, reduce congestion and cut carbon.”

Rodney Rose, county council cabinet member for transport, said the move complemented the council’s long-term plan to pedestrianise the city centre.