AIR RAIDS AND CENTRAL STATIONS.
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Over Centralization of Electric Power Generation and Its Relation to Certain Aspects of Transport.
By "The Inspector."
"THE COMMERCIAL MOTOR" has, as its readers may probably recall, in the past viewed with a certain amount of disquietude various suggestions to concentrate and centralize the sources of power in this country on any very large and comprehensive scale, particularly with regard to their effect on transport developments. The policy of this paper has, generally ■speaking, always favoured the multiplication of self-contained transport units rather than the substitution for them of increased fleets of vehicles depending for their motive power upon centrally organized stations,. either through batteries of accumulators or arterial conductors. I myself have in the main, subscribed fully to these ideas. White I am no bigoted antagonist of the 'electric-battery vehicle per se, nor, of course, is THE COMMERCIAL MOTOR, I held with many others, that the scope for. its use is a distinctly limited one, and in common with a great many other students of traffic problems, I am also fully convinced of the economic superiority of the self-containedindependent motorbus, as compared with the electric-tramway system and its auxiliary tangle of electric power distribution.
Our attention has been directed afresh, during the last week or so, to the imminence of a further attempt to impose upon the country a scheme of electrical centralization, this time one of far vaster proportions than anything hitherto attempted in this country. It therefore particularly behoves those of us who are associated with the commercial-vehicle in
dustry to consider anew the problems which are so•intimately associated with any scheme of this kind, so far as transport on common roads is concerned.
A sub-committee of the Ministry of Reconstruction recently issued its recommendations with regard to the conservation of our national sources of coal supply, and in this connection it proposes particularly an all-embracing scheme of central electrical generation in selected areas. Recommendation § in these days are fraught very often with consequences which, viewed in the light of pre-war experiences, can fairly be described as rapid. As a consequence we are being saddled with much control that has only been half considered.
It must be assumed therefore that we may quite conceivably be faced at an early date with far more concrete proposals in connection with this supercentralization of power, and if we are, we shall also soon be faced with discussions as to the many and various ways in which power so generated must be consumed. It appears to me, therefore, that the commercial-vehicle industry should be wideawake to such a possibility, and must hold a watching brief during this present period of preliminary exploitation. The interests of the self-contained vehicle must not be allowed to suffer in order that huge schemes for central power generation may be bolstered up. The primary and avowed object is, of course, factory power supply with tramways in support ; the battery vehicle will, however, undoubtedly be put forward also as in strong need of such new facilities.
We are living in days from which time onwards the air will always be a routeafor enemy agents of de o36
struction. As our aerial confidence and mastery in,crase in years to come, the great centres of our national industrial activities Will present increasingly vulnerable Points for such attack. I remember several years before the war reading, in the columns of -THE COMMERCIAL Mona, in interesting editorial pointing out the dangers of Zeppelin attacks on central stations with the consequent risk of disturbance to electric train, tram or motor vehicle circulation. No doubt the writer little dreamed that his warning would prove so applicable in• so short a-time. What is true to-day of the riskswe V run in respect of the destruction of our central power centres will be ten times more true in ten years time; even supposing we do not go far with our new formed zest for centralizing in order to save coal.
It is pointed out by electrical enthusiasts that the multiplicity of relatively small generating centres for electrical power is undesirable. They argue all in favour of fewer and greater installations. They desire ...very earnestly to put the whole of their eggs into one . basket, or, at any rate,. their turbo-alternators into one station. The new air outlook is one which must certainly give pause to any half-digested scheme of this nature ; it is a factor which cannot be disre garded. The entire paralysis which would overtake factories and transport systems and countless other aids to industry electrically propelled, were one or two lucky bombs to be dropped on any such plant, would most certainly precipitate a disaster of unheard-of proportions.
I, for my own part, regard the new method of attack and its very probable consequences as circumstances which will quite seriously militate against the desirability of super-concentration. In any case, if the conservators of our coal supply have their way, and decide that this is the principal manner in which we may make our national home-produced fuel supplies go furthest, such plants must be made disasterproof, and it may be that they will have to be built• wholly underground. For factory purposes and for the distribution of power for a hundred and one domestic and industrial uses, central-station generation will continue, and, of course, expand.
It appears to me that it is not desirable that one large portion of our road-transport -organization shall unnecessarily be linked with a great scheme of this nature, which may at a critical moment break.
down in the manner which is familiar to all users and particularly to those who have, for instance, experi enced the colossal disorganization on a tramway sys tem when some relatively simple interruption has taken place in connection with the generating plant. Were such plant knocked completely out of action for any long period, it would be worse than a case of temporary inconvenience ; it might well be national disaster if great systems of transport were thereby brought to aEtandstill. No 1 while we are busy trying to conserve our coal, let Ili not neglect to conserve .our newly-developed independent transport, by tying it up entirely to a very vulnerable source of power supply. Let us endeavour, at any rate, at the same time to develop 'by all means in our power the production in large quantities of honie-produced fuel for • our gi-Avixn waxons and our petrol lorries.