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Big decisions, big risks. Improving accountability in mega projects

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  • Bruzelius, Nils
  • Flyvbjerg, Bent
  • Rothengatter, Werner

Abstract

In terms of risk, many appraisals of very large infrastructure investments assume, or pretend to assume, that infrastructure policies and projects exist in a predictable Newtonian world of cause and effect where things go according to plan. In reality, the world of policy and project preparation and implementation is a highly stochastic one where things happen only with a certain probability and rarely turn out as originally intended. The failure to reflect the probabilistic reality of investment preparation and implementation is a central reason for the poor track record that can be documented for many major projects. The article describes lessons and recommendations on how to improve accountability in decision making on very large infrastructure investments in Denmark and Germany. The conventional approach to infrastructure investments is replaced by an alternative focusing on accountability. Redrawing the borderlines of private and public involvement, four specific measures to increase accountability are suggested and detailed: (1) Transparency, (2) Performance specifications, (3) Explication of regulatory regimes, and (4) Involvement of risk capital. The decision on whether or not to build a multi-billion dollar fixed link across the Baltic Sea connecting Scandinavia and Germany is used as an illustrative case. The cyclical process about the promotion of the German MAGLEV technology gives another good example for identifying basic failures in the political process. Beyond these examples from two countries, the approach developed is likely to be relevant for other major projects in other countries as well.

Suggested Citation

  • Bruzelius, Nils & Flyvbjerg, Bent & Rothengatter, Werner, 2002. "Big decisions, big risks. Improving accountability in mega projects," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 9(2), pages 143-154, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:trapol:v:9:y:2002:i:2:p:143-154
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Lehtonen, Markku, 2019. "Ecological Economics and Opening up of Megaproject Appraisal: Lessons From Megaproject Scholarship and Topics for a Research Programme," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 159(C), pages 148-156.
    2. te Boveldt, Geert & Van Raemdonck, Koen & Macharis, Cathy, 2018. "A new railway tunnel under Brussels? Assessing political feasibility and desirability with competence-based multi criteria analysis," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 66(C), pages 30-39.
    3. Giuliano Marella & Valentina Antoniucci, 2019. "Time Overrun in Public Works—Evidence from North-East Italy," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 11(24), pages 1-17, December.
    4. Tuna Taşan‐Kok, 2010. "Entrepreneurial Governance: Challenges Of Large‐Scale Property‐Led Urban Regeneration Projects," Tijdschrift voor Economische en Sociale Geografie, Royal Dutch Geographical Society KNAG, vol. 101(2), pages 126-149, April.
    5. Josef Wijk & Itay Fischhendler, 2017. "The construction of urgency discourse around mega-projects: the Israeli case," Policy Sciences, Springer;Society of Policy Sciences, vol. 50(3), pages 469-494, September.
    6. Dean, M. & Hickman, R. & Chen, C.-L., 2019. "Testing the application of participatory MCA: The case of the South Fylde Line," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 73(C), pages 62-70.
    7. Salling, Kim Bang & Leleur, Steen, 2011. "Transport appraisal and Monte Carlo simulation by use of the CBA-DK model," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 18(1), pages 236-245, January.
    8. Bert van Wee, 2011. "Transport and Ethics," Books, Edward Elgar Publishing, number 14281, September.
    9. Macário, Rosário & Ribeiro, Joana & Costa, Joana Duarte, 2015. "Understanding pitfalls in the application of PPPs in transport infrastructure in Portugal," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 41(C), pages 90-99.
    10. Locatelli, Giorgio & Invernizzi, Diletta Colette & Brookes, Naomi J., 2017. "Project characteristics and performance in Europe: An empirical analysis for large transport infrastructure projects," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 98(C), pages 108-122.
    11. Joseph Sturm & Mashrur Chowdhury & Anne Dunning & Jennifer Ogle, 2011. "Analysis of cost estimation disclosure in environmental impact statements for surface transportation projects," Transportation, Springer, vol. 38(3), pages 525-544, May.
    12. Roland Andersson & Bo Söderberg, 2012. "Financing roads and railways with decentralized real estate taxes: the case of Sweden," The Annals of Regional Science, Springer;Western Regional Science Association, vol. 48(3), pages 839-853, June.
    13. Alpkokin, Pelin & Capar, Murat Samil, 2019. "Dispute boards in Turkey for infrastructure projects," Utilities Policy, Elsevier, vol. 60(C), pages 1-1.
    14. Murakami, Jin & Matsui, Yurika & Kato, Hironori, 2016. "Airport rail links and economic productivity: Evidence from 82 cities with the world’s 100 busiest airports," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 52(C), pages 89-99.
    15. Julien Brunel, 2004. "Stochastic Risk vs. Policy Oriented Uncertainties: The Case of the Alpine Crossings," Post-Print halshs-00095852, HAL.

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