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The use and value of hierarchical governance and modeling in infrastructure network planning


  • Ben Immers


  • Mike Duijn



This paper discusses the seemingly inespacable tension between two dominant approaches to governance that are implemented with regard to the planning, design and development of infrastructure networks, such as roads and railways. Roughly, these approaches can be framed in two styles of governance, the hierarchical and the consensual style (Smits, 1995). In today’s (western) societies, hierarchical approaches to governance seem to become more and more obsolete. This is especially the case with regard to ´problematic situations´ that have a large spatial and environmental impact. For example, the planning, design and development of infrastructure networks have such a widespread, trans-sectoral impact, that a top down approach is considered to be no longer viable. The impact of large scale projects (such as the Betuwelijn, the development of the Tweede Maasvlakte or the High Speed Train Network) spreads into spatial, environmental, financial, legal, economic (with regard to exploitation and maintenance) and social aspects of everyday life. As a consequence, it is more and more to be considered as ´a normal procedure´ to at least consult the stakeholders concerned. The almost inevitable involvement of large groups of stakeholders with different characteristics cannot be achieved with hierarchical approaches to governance. Top down is assumed to be inappropriate and thus, un-called for in these types of policy processes. Following this widely accepted assumption, consensual approaches are designed and implemented, under various appealing banners, such as co-production, open planning processes and participatory policy making. These appealing names lead to innovative forms of interaction and participation of stakeholders. Stakeholders are enticed to participate in design workshops, brainstorms, coffee table talks, internet based discussions and surveys and market consultations. Stakeholders are invited to information centres and travelling exhibitions. All these efforts are undertaken based on the assumption that (this time) ´government will really listen and make effective use of all ideas, concerns and energy´. The question arises how effective and efficient these participatory efforts have been thus far. Is a consensual style of governance a solution for the ever increasing complexity of the impact of large scale infrastructural projects? Or has the hierarchical style still have some value for this type of policy processes? And if so, what kind value is this? And in addition, can hierarchical and consensual styles of governance simultaneously be helpful in planning, design and development of infrastructural networks, and if so, how and to what extend? Or must they be considered to be ´natural enemies´ with regard to designing and implementing policy processes? In this paper these questions will be addressed by assessing a (virtual) case study, the further advancement of the road infrastructure network around the city of Rotterdam (also known as the Rotterdamse Ruit). Subsequently we will discuss the two dominant styles of governance, the hierarchical and consensual style. Second, we will describe the role and value of hierarchical (top down) and consensual (bottom up) approaches in planning, designing and development of (road) infrastructural networks and projects. Third, we will make an attempt to combine both approaches, into a hybrid, cross over like, approach that incorporates both hierarchical and consensual approaches in governance. And fourth, we will apply (test) our hybrid, cross over approach to our (virtual) case study, thus proposing an approach for future governance to support the further advancement of the (road) infrastructure network in and around Rotterdam.

Suggested Citation

  • Ben Immers & Mike Duijn, 2005. "The use and value of hierarchical governance and modeling in infrastructure network planning," ERSA conference papers ersa05p178, European Regional Science Association.
  • Handle: RePEc:wiw:wiwrsa:ersa05p178

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