London Traffic and the Bus Shortage.
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I T SEEMS that we are to have another Select Com mittee to discuss the subject of London traffic.
If so, we trust that the discussion will not be allowed to deteriorate into an attempt to prove that private enterprises, i providing passenger carrying facilities, exist solely for the purpose of fleecing the public, whereas municipal or national enterprises are on a higher plane of efficiency and morality.
We hold no brief for the London General Omnibus Co. or the tube railways. We shall be glad to see the cost of travelling by rail or by bus reduced to its minimum compatible with a reasonable business profit to the companies concerned. If it can be shown that fares can be lowered and services improved, by all means let us do everything possible to encourage both these developments. , It is, however, only necessary to glance at the evidence recently given during certain other inquiries in order to realize that the meetings of a Select Corn: mittee will, by some people, be made to serve as a. platform, from which to preach wholesale nationalization.
In any practical inquiry, one of the first points to be cleared up is the misconception apparently prevalent among members of Parliament to the effect that the military type of motor lorry can, with perfect ease,.. be converted and re-fitted se as to become the London type of motor omnibus. The military lorry, is a good substantial commercial vehicle, somewhat heavy, and designed for general use on roads good or bad, and certainly not specifically for town use. The London .motor omnibus, on the other hand, is a comparatively light vehicle built for use on reasonably good roads,. without excessive gradients, and intended to he supported by a thoroughly efficient organization for maintenance. .
If lorries were to be .converted into omnibuses; we should certainly have a renewal of all the old complaints as regards vibration Set up by the passage of the buses, And consequent damage and inconvenience to ,adjacent property and its inhabitants. The heavier vehicles would be mere difficult to .handle to avoid serious slipping on greasy roads. In many ways they are not ideal for town passenger work. It must, therefore, be clearly recognized in advance that if, as an emergency measure, such vehicles are to be employed, the road motor vehicle as compared with the railed tramcar must not, be judged by the results. We can only get. a fair comparison between two totally different systems of transport, if each is represented by the best that it can provide for the class of work that has to be done.
If military lorries by the hundred or thousand were fitted up as buses, the cost of maintenance of the roads in the, London district would undeubtedly go up. If the Government were responsible for the innovation, the Government will have to be responsible also for indemnifying the road authorities against consequent loss. The danger appears to be that the public will insist upon having something which is known to be by no means well-suited for the purpose. In this one sympathizes with the public, which is tired of paying high fares for the privilege of standing up in a swaying vehicle. If we are to get rid of this sta,te of things, not by waiting until the right vehicles are available, but by using something that is not suitable, then we must, so to speak, indemnify the motor omnibus in advance against the loss of reputation that would follow.
As regards the shortage of vehicles also, we Must at least be fair. People whose resources have been entirely directed to war work cannot be blamed if, under compulsion, they haveneglected peace work. A few thousand omnibuses of satisfactory design cannot be brought into existence by the mere wave of a wand.
The Select Committee must realize that the bus companies have been even worse situated than the tramway concerns. In each case the vehicles and the plant have deteriorated; but the bus companies have suffered an additional disadvantage, inasmuch as their vehicles, unlike the tram, were found to be of some real military use. They are therefore obliged not only to face aposition caused by natural depreeiation coupled with inadequate maintenance, but this position is rendered all the more acute by the fact that many of the best vehicles in service at the outbreak of war were actually taken away and worked to death in France and Flanders.
Transport and Housing.
IT'S at least satisfactory to know thaeDr. Addison, in replying to the members of Parliament on the, subject of London traffic, fully recognized the intimate connection that exists between the housing problem and the transport problem.
. In the past, there has been'too much inclination to consider these two subjects quite separately, which —as Euclid would put it—is absurd. It is no good creating new residential centres in beautiful surroundings if adequate connection is not made to facilitate rapid movement between them and the business centres. The suburban railways are responsible—
perhaps through no fault of -their own—for much of the overcrowding of buses and tubes. It remains to be seen whether the London County Council and its tramway organization are not in a measure responsible for the same phenomena. Dr. Addison appears almost to encourage a revolution on the part of Londoners by . way of protest against inadequate transport facilities to and from their homes. The fear is that an organized attempt will be made to coocentratesall dissatisfaction against the operating companies in order to absolve the Government and local authorities from any blame for not having performed their own share of Their duties as providers of transport facilities to the London public.
The New Still (Petrol and Steam) Engine.
FROM THE TIME when the conversion of raw fuel into mechanical power left the rule of thumb stage and became a matter of scientific study, efforts to improve the brake thermal efficiency of our prime movers have been unremitting. The Winans steam engine of the 'nineties was able to convert about 6t per cent, of the calorific value of coal into useful power, but, since then, marine engines and turbines with their superheater have gradually brought the figure to the 20 per cent. attained by Sir Charles Parsons in a set at Chicago four years ago.
The gas engine started in 1860 at 5 per cent. ; it has now attained 24 per cent. on producer-gas, whilst a gas engine running alone has shown nearly 30 per cent. The best petrol engine performance is that of an aeroplane engine which has reached about 261 per cent. The Diesel engine attainments have now, for some time, been unrivalled, the highest figure so far attained being with a four-stroke Diesel, of 141 ins. cylinder diameter, running at 180 r.p.m., which has shown a brake thermal efficiency of 36 per cent.
But now come the claims of the Still or Still-Acland engine, the doings of which have hitherto been most closely guarded—mainly because it was desirable to keep the information from the enemy. The engine has been built in various sizes from a.5-in. by 5-in. four-stroke three-cylinder engine running on petrol to a 16-in, two-stroke engine running on fuel oil. The highest efficiency has been reached by an engine with 131-in. cylinders built to Admiralty requirements in which 41 per cent. b.t.e. was obtained, and, as the Still thermal cycle can be applied to any internalcombustion design, it is claimed that, added to the , most efficient Diesel, the high level of 44i percent. b.t.e. is attainable.
The first interest in the Still engine, the principles underlying which are described elsewhere in this Issue, lies with marine work, and engines have been designed by shipbuilding and engineering firms and are now being built for this work. But, as the internal-combustion engine can be nearly doubled in its efficiency (taking the average petrol engine as giving 22 per cent. b.t.e. and the Still engine 41 per cent.), it would seem that, so far as road transport is concerned, we are on the eve of something closely akin to the revolution produced by the introduction for stationary and marine work of the Diesel engine.
Efficiency in our prime movers means conservation of our fuel resources, it helps to solve the problem of balancing supply of fuel with the demand therefor, and it will serve to reduce transport costs. The ability to utilize a large portion of the heat which hitherto has been wasted in the cooling system and in the exhaust gases of internal-combustion engines will mean the encouragement of the use of such fuels as producer gas and compressed coal gas, which again will serve to lessen the demand for imported fuels.
• We look forward to a large amount of enterprise on the part of the designers and manufacturers of commercial vehicles, to the propulsion of which the Still thermal cycle could well next be applied, for it u24 seems to us, from what we have already seen, that the application to the marine engine has now been successfully made.
Alcohol Fuel—Facts and Rumours.
WE UNDERSTAND that the Alcohol Motor Fuel Committee is in process of revising its first report, though we anticipate that the publication of this report cannot be expected for some weeks to come. In the meanwhile, some very interesting and also some rather strange rumours on the subject of alcohol fuel are in circulation though we cannot say how far they may be derived from matters with regard to which the Committee has taken evidence.
We must, of course, be mainly dependent on vegetable matter for our supplies of fuel alcohol, if we ever propose to make these adequate to meet the greater part of the demand for motor spirit. As we have previously stated, this means that the bulk of the spirit will almost certainly be distilled outside Great Britain. Our climate does not lend itself to the cheap production of alcohol crops.
There is, however, at least one quite substantial source of supply in this country. Fuel alcohol may be obtained from coke ovens by processes that have been perfected in the interests of the country during the war. It appears that these processes are quite commercial. The quantity of alcohol obtainable Ts variously estimated at something between 100 millions and 150 millions of gallons per annum. We ourselves incline towards the more modest estimate.
The question naturally arises whether the extraction of alcohol will lead to the loss or the marked deterioration of other products of commercial value. We gather that, in point of fact, the result would be a slight loss in the quality of the resulting gas, but the deterioration would be so slight as to make the general adoption of the process entirely justifiable.
It does not seem likely that any production of alcohol from wood waste on a commercial scale will be possible in this country, arid we must confess to grave doubt as to whether there is much to be done in the way of obtaining fuel alcohol from potatoes grown in Ireland, unless the industry were established with the support of a very substantial State subsidy.
Opinion appears to be forming in favour of the production of alcohol-ether fuels which will, perhaps, be more freely employed than alcohol-benzole mixtures. The alcohol-ether fuel is hardly a mixture in the ordinary sense, since the ether is brought into existence in the distillery and it, is not a case of creating two separate substances and then mixing them together. We have heard it stated recently that tremendous quantities of alcohol-ether fuel have been employed in connection with our mechanical transport on certain of the fronts during the past two or three years. It is even asserted that the fuel used has been available in such quantities as to render the import of petrol into certain areas unnecessary, and that the fuel has in fact consisted almost entirely of ether, only a very small percentage of alcohol remaining unconverted. Ether is of course extremely volatile, and we find great difficulty in believing that a fuel so volatile as that indicated can be employed successfully in certain extremely hot climates. The loss by evaporation would, we imagine, be prohibitive. At the same time, without doubt, an alcohol-ether mixture consisting roughly of two of alcohol to one of ether is a fuel of a practical character fitted for use generally throughout the world. We believe that,. when the report of the Alcohol Committee appears, it will he found to contain some very important facts not hitherto fully recognized, and it is to be hoped that these will be coupled with recommendations in favour of a strenuous endeavour to develop fuel alcohol within the Empire upon an extremely large. scale and with the active assistance of the Imperial Government.
The Roads and Transport Exhibition.
WE STATED recently -our opinion to the effect that an Exhibition might with advantage be-held at a fairly early date for the somewhat special purposes of illustrating to those particularly concerned the ubiquity of the motor vehicle in municipal and public service. Our argument was really based, in the main, on the recognized fact that very many vehicles are sold largely on the strength of their bodywork. In other words, the possibilities of the vehicle inspected are appreciated by the potential buyer because the i vehicle is fitted with a body which s just calculated to adapt itself to the work he requires done. The country is now about to embark upon big schemes for the provision of rural transport services and for the reconstruction of roads and the building of numerous houses. Many of these schemes, if not all of them, will be largely controlled either by local or by national authorities. The details of the schemes in many cases will have to be worked out by people who start without any very specialized knowledge of motor vehicles. Such people are not likely to be fully impressed with the possibilities of the motor vehicle, unless they see it in a form which can be readily recognized as applicable to their own special purpose. Curiously enough, our remarks on this subject have been almost immediately followed by an announce ment to the effect that the County Councils' Association proposes to extend the scope of its annual exhibitions so as to make them equally representative of road vehicles and of methods of road construetion. In the past road vehicles have been 'seen in small numbers at these exhibitions, the interest of which has been focussed almost entirely on the giving of an opportunity to examine into the materials advocated for the construction--of modern roads and the methods of applying these materials. It stands to reason that an exhibition of this latter classwill appeal strongly to the road. surveyor and to the representatives of local authorities. The enlargement of scope is therefore a move in the right direction.a recognizes that roads and road transport must be considered as two parts of one system. The Congress next November will be attended not only by municipal officials but by elected representatives of the motor trade and users' organizations, whose points of view will, therefore, be properly expressed.. One may fairly expect this to result in a better understanding between what have been too oftenregarded as antagonistic interests. Similarly, if the exhibition is well supported in respect of transport. vehicles, the consequence will certainly be to familiarize those responsible for road maintenance with the problems of the vehicle manufacturer and the very wide spheres of utility of the vehicles themselves in their application to municipal and rural services.