On 10 Feb 1914 The South Wales Transport Company was incorporated as a subsidiary of the British Electric Traction Company Limited (BET). It was formed to operate bus services in Swansea and surrounding towns (Neath, Llanelli, Pontardawe etc) , to complement the electric tram service provided by another BET subsidiary, Swansea Improvements and Tramways Company (SITC). The head office was at Rutland Street, Swansea and the buses were housed at a depot in Brunswick Street (which later became the company's head office). The first service ran from the train terminus at Ynysforgan to Pontardawe on 2 May 1914.
In 1927 the company took over the lease of Mumbles Railway and Pier from Swansea Improvements and Tramways Company, and the two companies merged. Immediately, South Wales Transport Company worked on the electrification of the line, which had previously been run by horse and then steam. Power had been granted by the Ministry of Transport in 1925, under the Railways (Electrical Power) Act of 1903. An electricity sub-station at Blackpill was built, and an agreement made with Swansea Corporation for the supply of electrical power. South Wales Transport Company then took over the tramway company in 1930, although both continued to be wholly owned by BET, with the same management and directors.
In 1935 the two companies sought parliamentary powers to abandon the tram system and substitute it with bus services. The routes were still leased from Swansea Corporation, whose approval also had to be sought. The result was the Swansea and District Transport Act 1936, which gave power for the company to operate bus services in the County Borough of Swansea for 21 years. An annual fee was to be paid to the Corporation and at the end of that period the Corporation would have the right to compulsorily acquire all local services. The act also provided that a Transport Advisory Committee was set up. After 21 years the corporation did not choose to exercise the right to take over the local services.
In the 1930s the company expanded its remit to include coach tour holidays throughout the UK, and to other European destinations. As air travel became a more popular way to travel over-seas, the company arranged air tours with air travel companies at Cardiff and Swansea. The company opened a Travel Agents at Craddock Street, Swansea, and acted as an agent for the major operators in world travel.
Between 1935 and 1937 the company acquired various small local bus companies, including J M Bacus & Co of Burry Port, The Gwedraeth Transport Co (1933) Ltd of Pontyates (both ran services in the Llanelli-Carmarthen direction), Willmore Motors Ltd of Neath, John Brothers of Grovesend, Treharne Bros of Ponthenry and Osborne Services of Neath. In 1952 the company purchased Llanelly District Traction Company, which operated trolley and motorbus services within the town of Llanelli. The trolley buses were scrapped and replaced with motor buses.
Coming to the end of the 1950s, there was an investigation into the future of the railway. The company found that the fall in passenger numbers due to the increasing use of private motor cars, and the increase in operating costs, meant that it would be beneficial to abandon the railway and replace it with bus services. It purchased the railway and pier from the proprietors, Swansea and Mumbles Railway Company and the Mumbles Railway and Pier Company, and then applied for an act to abandon the railway. Despite a petition signed by almost 14000 people, from the Mumbles Railway Passengers Association, the South Wales Transport Act 1959 was passed. Mumbles Railway ran its last train on 5 Jan 1960.
Mumbles Pier had been sub-leased to the Amusement Equipment Company Limited since 1938. It was closed and declared unsafe in 1952, but the sub-lessees had repaired it, and it re-opened in 1956. After the abandonment of Mumbles Railway, the pier and hotel was owned by South Wales Transport Company, who continued to lease both to Amusement Equipment Company, before selling to them on 22 Dec 1971.
The company also ran The Magnet Club, the official sports and social organisation of the employees of the South Wales Transport Co Ltd. The object of the club was to encourage and provide facilities for all forms of social, educational and athletic recreation and general good fellowship between members.
In 1967 the South Wales Transport Co Ltd was transferred to the Transport Holding Company. Under the Transport Act of 1968 the National Bus Company (formed on 1 Jan 1969) took over the Transport Holding Company's interests. The former BET subsidiaries were rationalised, with South Wales Transport taking control of the smaller businesses Neath and Cardiff Luxury Coaches Ltd and Thomas Bros (Port Talbot Ltd) in 1969, and United Welsh Services Limited in 1970. All three companies were completely absorbed by South Wales Transport in 1971. In 1972 some services, vehicles and depots of Western Welsh were taken over. On 8 May 1987 the company was purchased by its management team, led by the Managing Director, David Bending, and it became privatised. It became one of the privatised subsidiaries which now make up First Cymru Ltd.
For further information on the earlier history of the Mumbles Railway companies, see the admin history for Swansea Improvements and Tramways Company Limited, LAC/10/2 and Swansea and Mumbles Railway Limited (and Mumbles Railway and Pier Limited), LAC/10/3
For further information on the company's omnibus premises see LAC/10/1/7.