New plant in an extended Luton Electricity Works could be running on test by Saturday afternoon and should be in use by the following week, even though some parts had still to be delivered.
That was the good news contained in an article in The Luton News of January 14th, 1915, which detailed the long wait to bring the new plant on line that had caused some local companies involved in essential war work to doubt that Luton Town Council had taken all the steps it could in the past, while putting the blame for delays on the war.
As long ago as April 30th, 1912,The Luton News reported that the Town Council had contracted to supply the large amount of power required by the Thermo Electric Ore Reduction Corporation and that moreover the Council had insisted on having personal guarantees of £7,000 from the directors for the fulfilment of their part of the contract.
Correspondence between the War Office and Luton Town Council had tended to show that the delay was caused by contractors' non-delivery, but there was a feeling among interested circles outside the Council that that reason only applied to the last few months, and that instead of having the plant a year ago the Council should, before signing a contract of the character referred to, have been fully prepared with the necessary plant.
With regard to the industrial effect, the statement was made to us (The Luton News) that the Thermo works is idle part of nearly every day, and that when working it is only with a small supply of power.
Having regard to the very important uses of the Thermo's manufactures at this time, the situation which has arisen is much to be deplored. The firm have been the sole English manufacturers of tungsten, which is an essential part of all tool steel and steel required for war purposes; but if unable to fulfil their contract in this line, competition is not unlikely. They are also the only makers of ferro-chromo, an essential of armour plate and shells, and they are also supplying large quantities of ferro-molybdenum, which is used for high grade steels in war materials. The firm's contract for all these manufactures, now overdue, amount to nearly £250,000.
The newspaper article went on that it must not, however, be regarded as wholly due to the Town Council that the Electricity Works extensions had not been completed at an earlier date. When the necessity of this additional plant became apparent they immediately applied to the Local Government Board for sanction to borrow the necessary money to pay for the extensions.
The inquiry into the application was held in July 1913, and until the Local Government Board had given their approval to the scheme the Council could not definitely proceed with the extensions. But in order that no time might be lost, they had given provision orders for the necessary plant, and these were confirmed immediately assent was received from the Local Government Board.
The turbines required were, in fact, ordered as early as March 1913 - four months before the date of the inquiry. The contract for the extensions of the buildings should have been completed by November 1913.
In connection with these extensions, however, difficulties arose with regard to the materials, and it was largely owing to this that the whole scheme of the extensions was not completed before the outbreak of war. As it was, there was every prospect that the additional plant would be running by the end of August, but this was rendered impossible by the war. Plant was hung up on the railways, other plant which was in course of construction was not completed as the contractors were devoting all their attention to the execution of War Office contracts. At the present time there is an important part of some accessory plant still to be delivered, and for the delivery of which the Corporation are unable to get a date from the contractors.
In the correspondence which came before the Town Council last week it was stated that Messrs Oakes and Co, of Alfreston, had still to deliver some important castings, and Messrs Mechan and Sons Ltd, of Glasgow, a coal-handling plant. The castings from Messrs Oakes and Co have now arrived, and part of the coal elevator is in course of erection. But the completion of the elevator is still uncertain.
We are able to state, however, that the new plant will probably be running on test by Saturday afternoon, and be in use next week. The non-completion of the coal elevator will necessitate firing by hand, and therefore involve considerable extra labour, but we understand it is considered better to proceeds at this disadvantage than further delay the running of the new plant for the completion of the coal elevator.
The extensions were designed on a scale which was believed to be comprehensive enough to enable the Corporation to meet all applications for current and still have a set in reserve as a stand-by. The demand, however, has so increased in the interim that when the new plant is running the whole will be required for the regular daily load.
The Thermo-Electric Ore Reduction Company are only one of a number of firms making considerably increased demands for power, chiefly owing to war contracts, but we understand that at the present time, although it is admitted their requirements are not being wholly met, they are receiving a supply considerably in excess of that given a year ago.
[The Luton News, January 14th, 1915]