Accountants tend to sniff at plant and equipment, placing it in a different column and shaking their heads as they work out asset depreciation.
However heavy machinery, tools and equipment are better valued with hearty appreciation.
Any business functions to create wealth, to sustain its role in benefitting staff and shareholders and the society it serves.
Liquid assets – cash, credit, debts owed and contracts won – are all very well. Just as important, though, is the hammer of steel, the smell of diesel and the sound of engines revving pre-dawn which foretell better business, real work and reward.
Understanding the value of plant and equipment is crucial. To use a non-rail illustration: A restaurant’s assets might be its reputation for good food, friendly, competent, staff and comfortable surroundings.
Its liquid assets are the cash flow, the business accounts and the run of parties and dinners regulars book.
However no less important is the plant and equipment – the premises themselves, ovens and grills, the copper bottomed pans, chairs and tables, carefully contrived cutlery and a vase with a rose in the middle of every table. Some companies – like a management consultancy – have very few plant and equipment assets. Others are more heavily dependant. Railways are a case in point.
The railway industry might be labour intensive with huge reliance on engineers, track workers and technicians however it’s appetite for new technology, better plant and equipment, has never been greater. The rail industry is expanding.
In Britain, in passenger terms, we boast the fastest growing railway in Europe.
Stop-start investment and erratic public funding mean there is still much catching up to do.
Alistair Darling might not dwell on it in his memoirs but he was brave enough to point out, whilst secretary for transport, that successive governments of both political persuasions had failed the railway in investment terms.
That is changing now with progress being made on the Docklands Light Railway and London Overground upgrades, the hugely ambitious Crossrail project and best of all the prospect of High Speed Two.
To deliver this new plant and equipment is essential. Developing the technologies and machines that will build and the railways of the future is in everyone’s interest.
In this special feature we take a look at some of the developments in plant and equipment underpinning the new dynamics of Britain’s expanding rail industry.
Hard assets may depreciate with age but these featured here are already making a fine contribution to an industry hungry to rebuild and expand its asset base.