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«Megaprojects and Risk provides the first detailed examination of the phenomenon of megaprojects. It is a fascinating account of how the promoters of ...»

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Megaprojects and Risk

Megaprojects and Risk provides the first detailed examination of the phenomenon of megaprojects. It is a fascinating account of how the promoters of multibillion-dollar megaprojects systematically and self-servingly

misinform parliaments, the public and the media in order to get projects

approved and built. It shows, in unusual depth, how the formula for approval is an unhealthy cocktail of underestimated costs, overestimated

revenues, undervalued environmental impacts and overvalued economic development effects. This results in projects that are extremely risky, but where the risk is concealed from MPs, taxpayers and investors. The authors not only explore the problems but also suggest practical solutions drawing on theory and hard, scientific evidence from the several hundred projects in twenty nations that illustrate the book. Accessibly written, it will be essential reading in its field for students, scholars, planners, economists, auditors, politicians, journalists and interested citizens.

           is Professor in the Department of Development and Planning at Aalborg University, Denmark, and author of the highly successful Making Social Science Matter (Cambridge, 2001) and Rationality and Power (1998).

             is Associate Professor at Stockholm University and an independent consultant on transport and planning.

               is Head of the Institute of Economic Policy Research and of the Unit on Transport and Communication at the University of Karlsruhe, Germany.

Megaprojects and Risk An Anatomy of Ambition Bent Flyvbjerg Nils Bruzelius Werner Rothengatter


The Pitt Building, Trumpington Street, Cambridge CB2 1RP, United Kingdom


The Edinburgh Building, Cambridge CB2 2RU, UK 40 West 20th Street, New York, NY 10011–4211, USA 477 Williamstown Road, Port Melbourne, VIC 3207, Australia Ruiz de Alarcon 13, 28014 Madrid, Spain ´ Dock House, The Waterfront, Cape Town 8001, South Africa http://www.cambridge.org Bent Flyvbjerg, Nils Bruzelius, Werner Rothengatter 2003 C This book is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements, no reproduction of any part may take place without the written permission of Cambridge University Press.

First published 2003 Printed in the United Kingdom at the University Press, Cambridge System LTEX 2ε [ ] Typeface Plantin 10/12 pt A A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloguing in Publication data Flyvbjerg, Bent.

Megaprojects and risk: an anatomy of ambition / by Bent Flyvbjerg, Nils Bruzelius, Werner Rothengatter.

p. cm.

Includes bibliographical references and index.

ISBN 0 521 80420 5 – ISBN 0 521 00946 4 (pb.)

1. Project management. 2. Risk management. I. Bruzelius, Nils.

II. Rothengatter, Werner. III. Title.

HD69.P75 F59 2002 658.4 04–dc21 2002074193 ISBN 0 521 80420 5 hardback ISBN 0 521 00946 4 paperback Contents

–  –  –

We wish to thank the people and organisations who helped make this book possible. Special thanks must be given to Patrick Ponsolle and John Noulton, of Eurotunnel, Mogens Bundgaard-Nielsen, of Sund & Bælt Holding, and Ole Zacchi, of the Danish Ministry of Transport. Not only did they and their staff help us with data for the book’s case studies, they also gave critical comments on an earlier version of the book’s manuscript.

We also wish to thank Martin Wachs, of the University of California at Berkeley, and Don Pickrell, of the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center at Cambridge, Massachusetts, for their comments on our analysis of cost overrun. Per Homann Jespersen, of Roskilde University, provided helpful input to our considerations regarding environmental impacts and risks. Roger Vickerman, of the University of Kent at Canterbury, gave valuable comments on the chapter about regional and economic growth effects. Thanks are due as well to the following colleagues for their kind help at various stages in the research and writing process: Jim Bohman, Irene Christiansen, John Dryzek, Raphael Fischler, Ralph Gakenheimer, Maarten Hajer, Mette Skamris Holm, Andy Jamison, Bill Keith, Finn Kjærsdam, Mary Rose Liverani, Kim Lynge Nielsen, Tim Richardson, Yvonne Rydin, Ed Soja, Michael Storper, Andy Thornley, Jim Throgmorton and Alan Wolfe. Two anonymous Cambridge University Press reviewers provided highly useful comments for preparing the final version of the typescript.

The transport sector and its institutions are hardly in the vanguard regarding freedom of information. In some cases we were unable, using the formal channels for information gathering, to get the data and in-depth information we needed to write the book the way we wanted to write it.

We are grateful to those bold individuals who, when the formal channels dried up, found informal ways of furnishing us with the information we lacked. We mention no names for obvious reasons.

Lilli Glad expertly transformed our drafts into readable manuscripts.

Anni Busk Nielsen provided precious help in acquiring the literature on

viii Acknowledgements ix

which the study is based. The research and the book were made possible by generous grants from the Danish Transport Council and Aalborg University. Finally, we wish to thank our editor at Cambridge University Press, Sarah Caro, who provided valuable help in seeing the book through the printing process. Bent Flyvbjerg was teamleader for the research on which the book is based and is principal author of the book. We apologise to anyone we have forgotten to mention here. Responsibility for errors or omissions in this book remains ours alone.

1 The megaprojects paradox A new animal Wherever we go in the world, we are confronted with a new political and physical animal: the multibillion-dollar mega infrastructure project.

In Europe we have the Channel tunnel, the Øresund bridge between Denmark and Sweden, the Vasco da Gama bridge in Portugal, the German MAGLEV train between Berlin and Hamburg, the creation of an interconnected high-speed rail network for all of Europe, crossnational motorway systems, the Alp tunnels, the fixed link across the Baltic Sea between Germany and Denmark, plans for airports to become gateways to Europe, enormous investments in new freight container harbours,   200 billion worth of transport infrastructure projects related to German unification alone, links across the straits of Gibraltar and Messina, the world’s longest road tunnel in Norway, not to speak of new and extended telecommunications networks, systems of cross-border pipelines for transport of oil and gas, and cross-national electrical power networks to meet the growing demand in an emerging European energy market. It seems as if every country, and pair of neighbouring countries, is in the business of promoting this new animal, the megaproject, on the European policy-making scene. And the European Union, with its grand scheme for creating so-called ‘Trans-European Networks’, is an ardent supporter and even initiator of such projects, just as it is the driving force in creating the regulatory, and de-regulatory, regimes that are meant to make the projects viable.1 The situation is similar in industrialised and industrialising countries in other parts of the world, from Asia to the Americas. There is, for example, Hong Kong’s Chek Lap Kok airport, China’s Quinling tunnel, the Akashi Kaikyo bridge in Japan, Sydney’s harbour tunnel, Malaysia’s North–South Expressway, Thailand’s Second Stage Expressway, and proposals for an integrated Eurasian transport network. In the Americas there is Boston’s ‘Big Dig’, freeways and railways in California, Denver’s new international airport, Canada’s Confederation 2 Megaprojects and Risk bridge, the S˜ o Paulo–Buenos Aires Superhighway, the Bi-Oceanic higha way right across South America from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and the Venezuela–Brazil highway. Even a proposed   $50 billion project to link the USA and Russia across the Bering Strait – the ‘biggest project in history’, according to its promoters – is not missing in the megaproject scheme of things.2 Outside the field of transport infrastructure there is the Three Gorges dam in China, Russia’s natural gas pipelines, the Pergau dam in Malaysia, flood control in Bangladesh, the Bolivia–Brazil gas pipeline, the Venezuela–Brazil power line and, again and everywhere, the ultimate megaproject, the Internet with associated infrastructure and telecommunications projects.

Megaprojects form part of a remarkably coherent story, the ‘Great War of Independence from Space’.

Zero-friction society Megaprojects form part of a remarkably coherent story. Sociologist Zygmunt Bauman perceptively calls it the ‘Great War of Independence from Space’, and he sees the resulting new mobility as the most powerful and most coveted stratifying factor in contemporary society.3 Paul Virilio speaks of the ‘end of geography’ while others talk of the ‘death of distance’.4 Bill Gates, founder and chair of Microsoft Corporation, has dubbed the phenomenon ‘frictionless capitalism’ and sees it as a novel stage in capitalist evolution.5 When Microsoft and Gates single out a concept or a product, one is well advised to pay attention. ‘Frictionless society’ may sound like an advertiser’s slogan in the context of its usage.

It is not. The term signifies a qualitatively different stage of social and economic development.

In this development ‘infrastructure’ has become a catchword on a par with ‘technology’. Infrastructure has rapidly moved from being a simple precondition for production and consumption to being at the very core of these activities, with just-in-time delivery and instant Internet access being two spectacular examples of this. Infrastructure is the great space shrinker, and power, wealth and status increasingly belong to those who know how to shrink space, or know how to benefit from space being shrunk.6 Today infrastructure plays a key role in nothing less than the creation of what many see as a new world order where people, goods, energy, The megaprojects paradox 3 information and money move about with unprecedented ease. Here the politics of distance is the elimination of distance. The name of utopia is Zero-Friction Society. And even if we can never achieve utopian frictionlessness, we may get close, as is currently happening with the spread of the Internet. Modern humans clearly have a preference for independence from space and are consistently undercutting the friction of distance by building more and improved infrastructure for transport, including telecommunications and energy.

Megaprojects are central to the new politics of distance because infrastructure is increasingly being built as megaprojects. Thus the past decade has seen a sharp increase in the magnitude and frequency of major infrastructure projects, supported by a mixture of national and supranational government, private capital and development banks.

Many projects have strikingly poor performance records in terms of economy, environment and public support.

Performance paradox There is a paradox here, however. At the same time as many more and much larger infrastructure projects are being proposed and built around the world, it is becoming clear that many such projects have strikingly poor performance records in terms of economy, environment and public support.7 Cost overruns and lower-than-predicted revenues frequently place project viability at risk and redefine projects that were initially promoted as effective vehicles to economic growth as possible obstacles to such growth. The Channel tunnel, opened in 1994 at a construction cost of £4.7 billion, is a case in point, with several near-bankruptcies caused by construction cost overruns of 80 per cent, financing costs that are 140 per cent higher than those forecast and revenues less than half of those projected (see Chapters 2–4). The cost overrun for Denver’s   $5 billion new international airport, opened in 1995, was close to 200 per cent and passenger traffic in the opening year was only half of that projected.

Operating problems with Hong Kong’s new   $20 billion Chek Lap Kok airport, which opened in 1998, initially caused havoc not only to costs and revenues at the airport; the problems spread to the Hong Kong economy as such with negative effects on growth in gross domestic product.8 After nine months of operations, The Economist dubbed the airport a ‘fiasco’, said to have cost the Hong Kong economy   $600 million.9 The fiasco may have been only a start-up problem, albeit an expensive one, but it 4 Megaprojects and Risk is the type of expense that is rarely taken into account when planning megaprojects.

Some may argue that in the long term cost overruns do not really matter and that most monumental projects that excite the world’s imagination had large overruns. This line of argument is too facile, however. The physical and economic scale of today’s megaprojects is such that whole nations may be affected in both the medium and long term by the success or failure of just a single project. As observed by Edward Merrow in a

RAND study of megaprojects:

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