Megaprojects and Risk

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Megaprojects and Risk: An Anatomy of Ambition
Megaprojects and Risk- An Anatomy of Ambition cover.jpg
AuthorBent Flyvbjerg
Nils Bruzelius
Werner Rothengatter
CountryUnited States
SubjectEconomics, infrastructure
PublisherCambridge University Press
Publication date
Media typePrint, e-book

Megaprojects and Risk: An Anatomy of Ambition is a 2003 book by Bent Flyvbjerg, Nils Bruzelius, and Werner Rothengatter, published by Cambridge University Press. According to chief economist and director of transportation policy at Infrastructure Management Group, Inc., Porter K. Wheeler, "this book makes an important contribution to understanding the infrastructure development process worldwide, with focus on megaprojects."[1] The New Scientist wrote upon publication, "Love them or loathe them, megaprojects capture the imagination. [This] damning analysis concentrates on a series of financial nightmares that should bring even the most casual reader out in a sweat."[2]


"Megaprojects" is the term applied to multibillion-dollar infrastructure developments such as massive dams and bridges, and to elaborate railways and highways. The book identifies a "megaprojects paradox," pointing out that more of these projects are being implemented, but such projects typically perform very poorly, often with substantial cost overruns and market shortfalls.[3][4]

Chapters two to four examine the Channel Tunnel, which opened in 1994 at a cost of £4.7 billion following cost-overruns of 80% which caused several companies to nearly go bankrupt. Denver International Airport, which cost $5 billion, opened in 1995 following a 200% cost overrun, and passenger traffic in 1995 was only half that expected. There were also problems with Hong Kong's Chek Lap Kok Airport, opened in 1998, which had low revenues and negatively affected Hong Kong's economy, initially.[5]

According to the authors, the reason for such poor performances is that many of the participants in the process have incentives to underestimate costs, overestimate revenues, undervalue environmental impact, and overvalue economic development effects.[6] The authors argue that central problems are lack of accountability and inappropriate risk sharing, which can be improved by reforming the institutional arrangements of decision making and by instituting accountability at the project development and evaluation stages.[1]


The Times of London gave Megaprojects and Risk a cover story and wrote, "Life is too short to read every tome penned by Scandinavian and German social scientists. But Megaprojects and Risk, written by Bent Flyvbjerg, Nils Bruzelius and Werner Rothengatter, is a cracker. In lurid and startling detail it examines dozens of vast construction schemes around the world."[7]

The International Journal of Urban and Regional Research wrote, "a timely intervention ... Flyvbjerg et al. have presented us with something close to a manifesto that should really be in the hands of every planning minister, regional and city planner, journalist and activist involved in mega-project development ... by the end I was wishing that more social scientists had such a lightness of touch and precise use of illustration. ... highly insightful."[8]

The Geographical Journal wrote, "this is the first [book] of its kind. It is concise and clear ... The subject matter is extremely interesting, timely and relevant. It sits within the tradition of ‘Victims of Groupthink’ and ‘Great Planning Disasters’ and attempts to find practical solutions. It is also highly suggestive of wider application beyond its immediate concerns."[9]

The Financial Express of India found the book, "a perfect complement to the richly textured arguments closer to home of Arundhati Roy in her damning indictment of the Narmada Dam and the Sardar Sarovar Project in The Greater Common Good ... The authors [of Megaprojects and Risk] provide a peep-show into social psychology [with] a wealth of empirical evidence ... Do read this book."[10]


Megaprojects and Risk: An Anatomy of Ambition is widely read and cited. It has more than 3,500 cites on Google Scholar, making it the most cited book on megaproject planning and management.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Wheeler, Porter K. (2004). "Megaprojects and Risk: An Anatomy of Ambition" (PDF). Journal of the Transportation Research Forum. 43 (1): 145–148.
  2. ^ New Scientist, vol. 177, no. 2388 , March 29, 2003.
  3. ^ Clark, Gordon L. (March 2005). "Book Review: Megaprojects and Risk". Planning Theory. 4 (1): 115–119. doi:10.1177/147309520500400107.
  4. ^ Brown, Peter H. (November 2005). "Book Review: Megaprojects and Risk: An Anatomy of Ambition". Economic Development Quarterly. 19 (4): 387–388. doi:10.1177/0891242405279767.
  5. ^ Flyvbjerg, B. Buzelius, N. Rothengatter, W. (2003). Megaprojects and Risk: An Anatomy of Ambition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-00946-4.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  6. ^ Zahariadis, Nikolaos (September 2004). "Megaprojects and Risk: An Anatomy of Ambition". Perspectives on Politics. 2 (3): 609–610. doi:10.1017/S1537592704620378.
  7. ^ The Times, London, April 16, 2003.
  8. ^ International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, vol. 29, no. 1, March 2005.
  9. ^ Geographical Journal, vol. 170, no. 2, 2004.
  10. ^ Financial Express, India, July 13, 2003.
  11. ^ Li, Yongkui, Yujie Lu, John E. Taylor, and Yilong Han, 2018, "Bibliographic and Comparative Analyses to Explore Emerging Classic Texts in Megaproject Management," International Journal of Project Management, vol. 36, no. 2, February, pp. 241-396.

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