The growth of Merthyr Tydfil into a major industrial centre at the end of the 19th century prompted calls for a modern system of public transport and resulted in the Merthyr Tydfil Light Railways Order of 1899, which authorised the construction of an electric tramway within the town.
Owned and operated by the BET subsidiary the Merthyr Tydfil Electric Traction & Lighting Company Limited, it was some 3½ miles long and initially ran between Cefn Bridge and Dowlais.
It commenced operations on the 6th April 1901 and continued to serve the town until 23rd August 1939, when it was purchased by Merthyr Corporation and closed down.
In 1910, Merthyr Council approached Tom Barton, who had recently commenced motorbus operations in Beeston, Nottinghamshire to enquire whether he would be interested in running a motorbus service between Merthyr and Aberfan.
An application for a licence was made on his behalf and approved by six local authorities. It is uncertain if the service actually ran but it is suggested that a Clarkson double-deck steam bus may have been used.
By 1923 no less than twelve operators had been licensed to operate on the route, although not all were still running.
Merthyr Tydfil Council had obtained powers to operate buses in 1920, but these were not implemented until 1924.
On the 18th August 1924 the local authority commenced operating from Merthyr to Aberfan and Treharris, in competition with the many independents that were now running in the area.
One of them, E. Snow and Sons sold out to the Corporation before services started, three AEC vehicles (Nos. 9-11) being acquired in the deal.
The initial fleet consisted of eight (Nos. 1-8) all-Leyland A13 26-seat single-deckers garaged in the new depot at Dynevor Street. The livery was maroon and cream with a red waistband.
On the 22nd August 1924 a second service, between Merthyr and Heolgerrig was inaugurated and on the 3rd September a service to Clwydyfagwyr began operating.
On the 7th May 1925 a service from Merthyr to Dowlais, via Pant and Caeracca started, followed shortly afterwards on the 25th August by a service from Merthyr to Twynyrodyn.
J. H. Rees of Troedyrhiw, who operated on the Merthyr to Aberfan route and also from Dowlais to Abertysswg was taken over in December 1925 along with two vehicles, which became numbers 14 and 15 in the Merthyr fleet.
In 1929 the Merthyr to Aberfan licences of W. J. Davies of Merthyr and C. Davies of Dowlais were acquired along with two vehicles from each operator.
On the 8th September 1930 a through service to Cardiff commenced, jointly with Cardiff Corporation, although two independents (Rhondda Tramways and Imperial Motor Services) were also licensed to operate on the route.
This substantially completed the bus network until the advent of the Second World War in 1939, when a rapid increase in industrial production, especially in the coal mining industry, necessitated an increase in the fleet.
Initially buses were hired, but wartime deliveries included ten (Nos. 14-23), Daimler CWA6’s, which was an unusually large number for such a small fleet.
Following the end of the war there was considerable redevelopment in the centre of the town, new estates were constructed in out of town areas and the fleet was expanded accordingly as new services were introduced.
Bristol vehicles were the favoured marque until these became unavailable, although a batch of six (Nos. 47-52) Foden PVD6’s were purchased in 1948.
In the early 1950’s, following the appointment of a new manager, the livery was changed to dark red with cream relief, although some of the early repaints were in an unattractive all-over red.
The purchase of a Leyland demonstrator (No. 70) in 1954 (the first 8ft wide bus in the fleet) led to a standardisation on Leyland vehicles that continued until they were no longer available.
The following year a number of Exeter Corporation wartime Daimler CWA6’s (Nos. 76-82) were purchased, ostensibly so that other vehicles in the fleet could be temporarily withdrawn from service for refurbishment, although these vehicles were themselves rebuilt in 1958 and lasted into the 1960’s.
In 1961 new offices and depot were opened in Nantygwenith Street in the former premises of coachbuilder D. J. Davies, who had built a number of bodies for the Corporation in the immediate post-war period.
In common with most other operators, Merthyr Corporation was faced with falling passenger numbers and rising costs throughout the 1960’s and one-man operation was introduced on 20th March 1966, when the services to Tower Colliery, Swansea Hospitals and to Tair Twynau were converted.
In July 1966 the Hoelgerrig route was also converted to one-man operation. This was also the year that the last year double-deck buses were purchased.
In 1967, the livery was again revised to predominantly cream with red relief and applied to most of the single-deckers, although it was considered unsuitable for double-deckers, which remained in the red with cream relief livery.
Between 1967 and 1972 the conversion to one-man operation saw the standardisation on Leyland Leopard chassis with East Lancs bodywork.
On the 27th January 1969 the Dowlais Top, Bryncelyn, Cardiff and the Sunday service to Swansea Road were converted to one-man operation.
Red & White Services share of the Merthyr to Pant service, which had been worked jointly since 1934, was exchanged for Merthyr’s Bryncelyn service in April 1970.
A move to low floor buses was made in 1973, resulting in the purchase of two Metro-Scanias, which, because of their high fuel consumption lasted just five years in the fleet, and four Bristol RESL6G’s, a marque that had recently been re-introduced to the marketplace after previously being restricted to the nationalised sector.
Local government re-organisation in 1974 had barely affected the Transport Department, although Merthyr Tydfil became a Borough Council and the name was changed accordingly. Merthyr Corporation acquired the Merthyr to Cefn Coed and the Merthyr to Trefechan services of Davies of Tredegar on the 1st March 1976.
A new white and orange livery was introduced from 1975, but was found to be unsuitable and it was replaced in 1983 by a burnt orange, dark brown and cream livery. At the same time reductions in services helped economies by reducing the size of the fleet.
It had been the policy of Merthyr Council for a number of years to subsidise uneconomic but socially necessary bus services, but, in 1986, the enactment of the 1985 Transport Act meant that these policies could no longer continue and required the Council to set up a private company, which it did so under the name of Merthyr Tydfil Transport, and, although it retained the majority shareholding, it effectively ended over 60 years of municipal transport in the Welsh borough.
This history covers the period of municipal operations of Merthyr Tydfil Corporation, which effectively ended on 26th October 1986 with the enactment of the 1985 Transport Act (de-regulation) and in preparing this history reference has been made to the following sources;
The Directory of British Tramways (Keith Turner; PSL 1996); Barton (Pt. 1 – 1908-1949; Alan Oxley, TPC 1983); Merthyr Tydfil Transport (Roy Marshall, Buses No. 419, Feb. 1990); PSV Circle Fleet History PG3 (1980); Buses (various editions) 1972-1986.