Authority to construct a tramway in Pontypridd was given under the Pontypridd and Rhondda Valley Tramways Order of 1882, although by 1887 only a small section of the tramway, running from the edge of Pontypridd to the village of Porth, had been built by the tramway company.
The well-known entrepreneur, Solomon Andrews took over construction of the line from the Pontypridd and Rhondda Valley Tramways Company and it commenced operations later in the year, although the exact date is unknown.
The tramway was single-track throughout and ran from The Square at Porth to the Taff Vale Railway’s viaduct on the Rhondda line at Pontypridd, which prevented the Tramway Company’s double-deck cars (and the line itself) from being extended further into the town.
In 1890, however, the Company went into liquidation and was purchased by another of Andrews’ concerns, the South Wales Property, Machinery and Carriage Company and operated until 1898 when it was sold to the British Electric Traction Company.
The agreement of the local authorities to electrify and extend the line was not forthcoming and, in February 1902, after an attack of glanders killed most of the tramway horses, the services were terminated.
Pontypridd UDC had already made plans to purchase and electrify the line, and work on the reconstruction had begun in July 1903 with an opening date set for March 1905. The Pontypridd and Rhondda Valley Tramways Company was eventually purchased on 31st October 1904.
The tramway officially opened on the 5th March 1905 and ran from the town centre to Treforest railway station, with a branch line connecting to Cilfynydd, which was worked as a single route via Pontypridd.
In 1908 the tramway was connected to the Rhondda system at the Trehafod boundary, where passengers were required to change cars until July 1919 when through running commenced, although this was abandoned in December 1927 after endless disagreements between the two towns.
By this time, however, the Pontypridd system was experiencing difficulties; the Cilfynydd line was in need of expensive refurbishment, which the small town could ill afford and plans were made to replace the trams.
In 1929 Pontypridd UDC obtained powers to operate motorbuses and trolleybuses, and, on 18th September 1930, the Treforest to Cilfynydd section was converted to trolleybus operation. Seven single-deck 32-seat English Electric trolleybuses (Nos. 1-7) formed the initial fleet.
The following year, on 30th August 1931, the remaining line to Trehafod was closed and motorbuses took over, the through service to Porth being operated jointly with Rhondda.
The first motorbus service had commenced in June the previous year when a service between Pontypridd and Rhydfelin had been inaugurated using four Bristol B-type single-deckers. The Bristol chassis subsequently became a regular choice for Pontypridd UDC.
The new trolleybus service proved extremely popular, so much so that at busy periods it was necessary to supplement the trolleybuses with tramcars, and so the exact date of the last tram is uncertain.
As a result additional trolleybuses were soon purchased and in early 1931 a pair of demonstrators arrived. The first was a Guy BTX with Guy H59R bodywork, followed shortly afterwards by a Bristol E with Beadle H60R bodywork, one of only two ever built.
Both demonstrators were purchased in 1932. The trolleybus service was now established and continued unchanged until the advent of the Second World War, when wartime demands saw several trolleybuses arrive on loan.
Further motorbus services were established throughout the 1930’s, principally to Caerphilly (jointly with Caerphilly UDC), to Ynysybwl (jointly with Rhondda and Red & White) and to the Treforest Trading Estate, which was established to entice alternative industries to the area in view of the high unemployment in the coal mining industry.
In 1945 Pontypridd ordered eight Karrier trolleybuses to replace the ageing fleet, and these were delivered over a period commencing with Nos. 10-11 (FNY983-984) in March 1945 and ending with the arrival of Nos. 8-9 (GNY301-302) towards the end of 1946.
The business of Jones Brothers of Treharris, who were operating stage services from Pontypridd to Blackwood and to Bedlinog, along with two vehicles and works services to Pontllanfraith was acquired in 1945, jointly with three neighbouring authorities.
In 1950 the Transport Manager drew the Council’s attention to the economics of maintaining such a small fleet of trolleybuses, and, with little prospect of expansion it was suggested that motorbuses would be more viable.
As it happened no action was taken at this juncture, but the question was raised again in 1954, when the operating costs of the trolleybuses was shown to be around 3d a mile more than motorbuses.
Again the matter was deferred since the extra running costs were considered to be too marginal to warrant expenditure on additional motorbuses.
In 1955, however, with the trolleybuses regularly being replaced by motorbuses when out of service, the Council again debated the future of the trolleybuses and this time agreed that the system should be abandoned from the 31st October 1956.
In the event, delays in the delivery of new motorbuses meant that the final abandonment did not take place until 31st January 1957; all the vehicles being sold for service elsewhere.
The existing Rhydfelin service was linked to the Cilfynydd service, and the Treforest section became a single-deck route.
New vehicles arriving in the fleet over the next few years included the AEC Reliance, which was to become the standard single-deck vehicle, whilst the AEC Regent V was purchased as the standard double-decker.
With passenger numbers falling, a move to one-man operation was proposed that necessitated the linking of several services previously operated independently.
Double-deckers were thus usually confined to school journeys, and to the principal routes to Glyncoch and Rhydfelin, although eventually these too were converted. Subsequently all new vehicles were capable of one-man operation and included a number of Leyland Nationals.
In October 1969, rationalisation of the bus network took place, with Pontypridd taking over sole operation of the route to Glyncoch, whilst the Porth service was handed over to Rhondda Transport and the Ynysybwl service to Red & White.
Pontypridd also relinquished their journeys on the former Jones Brothers routes, which were essentially loss making.
Under local government re-organisation, which took place in 1974, Pontypridd UDC became Taff-Ely District Council. The Transport Department was little changed but assumed the name of the new District Council.
In 1983 a number of second-hand Atlanteans enabled most of the AEC Regents, which were unsuitable for one-man operation to be withdrawn.
On the 26th October 1986 the enactment of the 1985 Transport Act led to the Council setting up an ‘arms-length’ limited company known as Taff-Ely Transport Ltd., effectively ending municipal services after over 80 years, although the Council still retained the majority shareholding.
This history covers the period of municipal operations of Pontypridd UDC and Taff-Ely District Council, 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); Pontypridd Trolleybus System (AG Newman, Buses No. 275, Feb 1978); Taff-Ely Transport (Roy Marshall, Buses No. 412, July 1989); Municipal Buses in Colour (Reg Wilson, Ian Allan 1997); PSV Circle Fleet History PG3 (1980).