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Lock-in and its influence on the project performance of large-scale transportation infrastructure projects: investigating the way in which lock-in can emerge and affect cost overruns

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  • Chantal C Cantarelli
  • Bent Flyvbjerg
  • Bert van Wee
  • Eric J E Molin

Abstract

Lock-in, the escalating commitment of decision makers to an ineffective course of action, has the potential to explain the large cost overruns in large-scale transportation infrastructure projects. Lock-in can occur both at the decision-making level (before the decision to build) and at the project level (after the decision to build) and can influence the extent of overruns in two ways. The first involves the ‘methodology’ of calculating cost overruns according to the ‘formal decision to build’. Due to lock-in, however, the ‘real decision to build’ is made much earlier in the decision-making process and the costs estimated at that stage are often much lower than those that are estimated at a later stage in the decision-making process, thus increasing cost overruns. The second way that lock-in can affect cost overruns is through ‘practice’. Although decisions about the project (design and implementation) need to be made, lock-in can lead to inefficient decisions that involve higher costs. Sunk costs (in terms of both time and money), the need for justification, escalating commitment, and inflexibility and the closure of alternatives are indicators of lock-in. Two case studies, of the Betuweroute and the High Speed Link-South projects in the Netherlands, demonstrate the presence of lock-in and its influence on the extent of cost overruns at both the decision-making and project levels. This suggests that recognition of lock-in as an explanation for cost overruns contributes significantly to the understanding of the inadequate planning process of projects and allows development of more appropriate means.

Suggested Citation

  • Chantal C Cantarelli & Bent Flyvbjerg & Bert van Wee & Eric J E Molin, 2010. "Lock-in and its influence on the project performance of large-scale transportation infrastructure projects: investigating the way in which lock-in can emerge and affect cost overruns," Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design, Pion Ltd, London, vol. 37(5), pages 792-807, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:pio:envirb:v:37:y:2010:i:5:p:792-807
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    1. Chantal C. Cantarelli & Bert van Wee & Eric J. E. Molin & Bent Flyvbjerg, 2013. "Different Cost Performance: Different Determinants? The Case of Cost Overruns in Dutch Transportation Infrastructure Projects," Papers 1307.2179, arXiv.org, revised Jan 2015.
    2. Cantarelli, C.C. & van Wee, B. & Molin, E.J.E. & Flyvbjerg, B., 2012. "Different cost performance: different determinants?," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 22(C), pages 88-95.
    3. Chantal C. Cantarelli & Bent Flyvbjerg, 2013. "Mega-projects’ cost performance and lock-in: problems and solutions," Chapters,in: International Handbook on Mega-Projects, chapter 15, pages 333-355 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    4. Bent Flyvbjerg, 2014. "What You Should Know About Megaprojects, and Why: An Overview," Papers 1409.0003, arXiv.org.
    5. Cantarelli, C.C. & Molin, E.J.E. & van Wee, B. & Flyvbjerg, B., 2012. "Characteristics of cost overruns for Dutch transport infrastructure projects and the importance of the decision to build and project phases," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 22(C), pages 49-56.
    6. Bert van Wee & Piet Rietveld, 2013. "CBA: ex ante evaluation of mega-projects," Chapters,in: International Handbook on Mega-Projects, chapter 12, pages 269-290 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    7. Hugo Priemus & Bert van Wee (ed.), 2013. "International Handbook on Mega-Projects," Books, Edward Elgar Publishing, number 14791.
    8. repec:eee:trapol:v:63:y:2018:i:c:p:131-140 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Giezen, Mendel & Salet, Willem & Bertolini, Luca, 2015. "Adding value to the decision-making process of mega projects: Fostering strategic ambiguity, redundancy, and resilience," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 44(C), pages 169-178.

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