The Spectator

Whose bright idea was the circuit-breaker?


It’s electrifying!

Who invented the circuit-breaker? Thomas Edison patented it in 1879, realising what damage could be caused to electrical equipment in the event of a surge in current created by short-circuit. However, his early electrical installations did not use them, opting instead for fuses — thin wires designed to burn out when the current flowing through them reached a critical level. The first circuit-breaker — with spring-loaded contacts designed to open when the current became too much — was not installed until 1898, at L Street Station by the Boston Electric Light Company.

Vehicle recovery

Has the recovery in car sales been maintained? Registrations by month:

2019 – 2020
February 81,969 – 79,594
March 458,054 – 254,684
April 161,064 – 4,321
May 183,724 – 20,247
June 223,421 – 145,377
July 157,198 – 174,887
August 92,573 – 87,276
Source: SMMT

The franchise affair

The government effectively announced the end of the rail franchising system for good, with the government taking on the financial risk of how many people choose to travel. What effect has the privatisation had on passenger numbers?

Passenger journeys (million)

Before privatisation:
1958 – 1,090
1968 – 831
1978 – 724
1988/89 – 855

After railways were privatised between 1995 and 1997:
1998/99 – 891
2008/09 – 1,266
2018/19 – 1,755
Source: Office for Rail and Road

Fine lines

The government proposed fines of £10,000 for people who failed to self-isolate. What else have people been fined £10,000 for?

— A student in Nottingham was fined that sum for organising a house party which was attended by 50 people.
— Piers Corbyn, elder brother of Jeremy, was fined for organising a protest against lockdown.
— Two people were fined for organising a rave in Banwen, Glamorgan.
—The owner of a Chinese takeaway was fined for running an unregistered house of multiple occupancy.

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