BACK TO THE FUTURE? Ex durante analysis of past failure in future mega-projects The institutional complexity of an international shift to sustainable mobility.
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Due to increased levels of greenhouse gasses, resulting in unequivocal climate change, the Paris Climate Agreement was set up in 2015 to limit the increase in global temperature to 2 degrees Celsius. The transport sector is one of the sectors with the biggest contribution to the emissions (15%), and thus can contribute to reaching the goals of reducing emissions as set in the climate agreement. The Sustainable Mobility Approach by Banister (2008) is developed to help policy-makers in the challenge of mitigating CO2-emissions. A modal shift to sustainable modes of transport is one of the components of this approach, which can be caused by changes on the macro level in transport supply, and on the micro level in the individuals’ choice for a mode of transport. A comparative advantage of the one mode over the other then can cause a modal shift. The choices made on a micro level are affected by the supply of the macro level, and thus changing supply (e.g. by implementing more infrastructure) is a way to reach a modal shift. Increasing infrastructure goes through different project-management phases: initiation, decision-making, construction and commissioning. Throughout these phases, existing uncertainties and risks are reduced, while new uncertainties and risks might appear. Sometimes, these projects are of such dynamic and complex nature that these projects are mega-projects. Scott & Levitt (2017) describe 4 factors that can make a ‘regular’ project into a mega-project: the amount of sub-projects involved, the degree of innovative technology used, the impact on surroundings and the involvement of key delivery partners from different national institutional frameworks (i.e. a cross-border component). Mega-projects over the past have built up a negative image, caused by the frequent occurring failure: delays, exceeded budgets and disappointing quality. Mega-projects can be analyzed on different levels: technical, strategical and institutional. Over the past decades, the institutional level has increased in complexity due the shift from government to governance, of which as a result policy is set up in networks that consist of institutional linkages between actors from the state, market and civil society. Another observed trend is the increasing international collaboration within projects, due to intensified globalization. Considering that projects with an international component are always considered to be mega-projects and thus run more risk on failure, this calls for a better understanding of the drivers of failure in mega-projects. This understanding might eventually lead to preventing failure in future projects. The institutional level of project considers the project within its business and social context and is concerned with the organization of the environment of the project, for the project to be implemented successfully (i.e. without delays, exceeded budgets or disappointing quality). Improving the institutional level forms the basis to improving the technical and strategical level of the project, and improvements on the institutional level can thus contribute to preventing failure in future projects. In order to understand how the institutional level of projects can be managed, insight should be gained in the institutions involved in the project. Semi-structured interviews are conducted among actors involved in reducing travel time by implementing new infrastructure on the rail connection between Amsterdam and Berlin, and with experts on Dutch-German rail connections and relations. Institutional theory is used in this research to understand institutions, and how organizations attain and preserve their characteristics. Institutions are built up of 3 pillars: regulative, normative and cultural-cognitive frameworks. - Regulative frameworks consist of laws of both countries, the relation between national and local and regional entities, corporate hierarchies. - Normative frameworks consist of professional standards, norms and values. - Cultural-cognitive frameworks consist of beliefs, schemas and frames, economic and religious ideologies, differing ethnicities and languages. In this research, factors that have caused failure in past projects are uncovered using theory and the past project of the HSL-Zuid. The resulting frame of analysis consists of 13 failure factors that are known to cause delays, exceeded budgets and disappointing quality. The failure factors are assessed to the extent to which these are expected to reoccur or disappear in the future project of reducing travel time by implementing new infrastructure on the rail connection between Amsterdam and Berlin. The trajectory of the former HSL-Oost is seen as one of the alternatives that is promising reaching travel time savings between Amsterdam and Berlin. Result of the analysis of possible reoccurring past failure in the future project of the HSL-Oost are that 3 of the 13 failure factors might reoccur: international collaboration of parties, Forecasts: realistic estimation of timeframe, and Decision-making disconnected from spatial context. The disappearance of the 10 remaining failure factors is caused by the application of the lessons learnt of the HSL-Zuid. These are interwoven in the processes in the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management. Other explanation for the disappearing failure factors is rooted in the development of the actor involved in the management of Dutch rail infrastructure ProRail. The failure factor of international collaboration of parties was expected to reoccur, because a cross-border aspect is known to cause such complexity that this characteristic makes a project a mega-project. An international aspect makes the project more complicated on every level: technical, strategical and institutional. This can be explained using institutional theory. With cross-border projects, there are differences in all frameworks, but the cultural-cognitive differences are the most importance. Cultural-cognitive frameworks are impossible to overcome, because the countries are situated in their own national definitions. The regulative controls and normative prescriptions that institutions are involved with, are involved by the cultural systems, because these are institutionally constituted entities (Scott, 2010). The cultural differences thus create differences in all 3 pillars of institutions, which can create dilemmas, tensions, misunderstandings, conflicts and confusion between institutions involved(Scott, 2010), and create a risk on failure that cannot be eliminated with international projects. The other reoccurring failure factors that concern the national level, however, were not foreseen to be reoccurring. Line infrastructure is spatially dispersed. Taking all lower governments into account in the first phases in which alternatives are weighed up would be would increase the number of actors involved explosively. This increases the risk of these actors to exert blocking power in the early phases of the process if the implementation of the project would not benefit their governmental entity enough. Due to the shift from government to governance, the role of the spatial planner has transformed into being a node in the institutional network of collective action. As a consequence, the spatial dimension is often involved later in the process, when there is already committed to alternatives. A more central role for spatial planning in the early stages is proposed as means to overcome the reoccurrence of failure factors concerning the national level and prevent other failures from occurring in later phases. In order to prevent failure in future projects, the focus should shift from looking back to the future to looking forward into that which is to come.