The Williams Review of the railway industry will, among its many other terms of remit, involve itself with "value for money". This is now sufficiently well bedded into railwayspeak for it to merit its own TLA*: VfM. Pandora has written at some length, occasionally in formal Responses, about the slippery nature of VfM, and of why chasing it too diligently is in the same category of things worth spending time on as looking for crocks of gold.
Let us visit our local Tesco (other emporia are available). Here we see litres of milk offered at 100p, or two for 160p. Is this VfM? You might think so, but for vegans it's heresy. Further along are found loaves at 130p, or two for 200p. Not VfM if you're gluten intolerant. So we leave Tesco and venture to Harrods where we find grand pianos for sale at £55,000 or two for £100,000. Is this VfM? Yes, if you're the Labèque sisters, but probably not otherwise. Pandora's point is that VfM is far too subjective to be capable of measurement, and is therefore a foolish - worse, a distracting - thing to aim for. No self-respecting passenger is going to reply favourably to the question: is the cost of your journey VfM?, precisely because a negative answer is more likely to produce improvement in the service, or a reduction in the amount of any likely increase in fares.
What should be worth pursuing is an increase in VfM. And by that Pandora means an increase in VfM as likely to be perceived by a decent chunk of passengers. Is the journey "better" than it was last year, before the new rolling stock was introduced? Are there more seats? Are there fewer delays? Is the journey time shorter? All of these can be measured and none is subjective. While we cannot know (nor do we need to) what percentage of passengers think that "VfM" has been delivered, we can measure whether that percentage is likely to have increased. And that, surely, is what matters.
We should not forget that many of the things provided at our expense by Her Majesty's Government are not normally required to pass any test of VfM-ness. Some are things with which most taxpayers would be likely to agree: foreign aid, for example. Others might occasion a significant level of disquiet: the replacement of Trident, for example. The rights and wrongs of these decisions are not at issue here: but the complete absence of a VfM criterion is surely significant.
Let us forget chasing VfM. Instead let the railway concentrate on two simple aims. Improve things. Eliminate waste. Then VfM is guaranteed to increase.
*Three Letter Acronym!