The first public transport link on the road between Pontypridd and Porth was a 3’-6” gauge horse tramway built by the Pontypridd and Rhondda Valley Tramway Company. The initial plan had been to build a line from Treherbert but instead it ran from Porth to Rhondda Road, unable to go further as the trams could not pass under the railway bridge by the Collier’s Arms.
The horse tramway opened around the end of 1887 and struggled for some time but traffic eventually built up. British Electric Traction started to express an interest and in the end the consequence was that the tramway was bought by Pontypridd and Rhondda Urban District Councils, taking advantage of their statutory right of purchase after 21 years from the original authorisation in 1903. Operation had suddenly ceased in February 1902 when the stock of horses was virtually wiped out by disease.
To enable trams to run up the Rhondda valley a means of passing under the railway had to be found and rather than risk giving the opportunity for the Taff Vale Railway to obstruct by widening the offending bridge the decision was made to build a new road partially over the river and through the arches of the railway’s river bridge. It was not until 1974 that the original bridge was modified.
Public service of electric trams between Pontypridd and Porth started on 4th April 1907 but was very limited initially and didn’t reach Pontypridd town centre as the new section of road was not completed. There wasn’t through running for some time, passengers having to change at Trehafod. Through running commenced regularly from 14th July 1919 but many operational problems resulted and a new agreement was reached effective from 1st April 1921.
An interesting feature of this period was that Rhondda operated buses on the service from January 1923 on Sundays until Pontypridd agreed to run Sunday trams in February 1926. The tramway was deteriorating and with the replacement of the Treforest to Cilfynydd trams by trolleybuses the fate of the Porth service was sealed and the last trams ran on 30th August 1931.
With the exception of Pontypridd ceasing to operate the service on Sundays towards the end of 1958, the bus service continued without any significant alteration until Pontypridd ceased operation to Porth, all services from 5th October 1969 being provided by Rhondda Transport.
The terminal arrangements in Pontypridd changed in later years. Originally buses arrived on Mill Street and turned right onto Taff Street to unload. They then reversed down Taff Street onto the departure stand to turn back down Mill Street to Porth. With increasing traffic this turning manoeuvre was getting more dangerous. The situation was resolved by the introduction of a one-way system in the town centre which saw buses loop round the town via Gelliwastad Road, Crossbrook Street and Taff Street before leaving along Mill Street. Following the opening of the Sardis Bridge in 1967 the service changed to use Gelliwastad Road in both directions.
This was a very busy service, at its peak running every five minutes on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons. Timetables from the late sixties show slightly different departure points from Pontypridd on Saturdays compared to other times, with vehicles shown as departing from Midland Bank or Woolworths instead of Mill Street.
© David Beilby