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Bent Flyvbjerg

Professor, Research Director, Dr. Techn., Dr. Scient., and Ph.D.

Notice: On April 1, 2009, Bent Flyvbjerg moved to University of Oxford. Flyvbjerg's Aalborg website is up to date until the time of his move. After this date, please see his site at Oxford:
www.sbs.oxford.edu/bentflyvbjerg

 

 

Bent Flyvbjerg's Publications on Megaprojects

Main Publications:

Decision-Making On Mega-Projects: Cost-benefit Analysis, Planning, and Innovation. Book co-edited with Hugo Priemus and Bert van Wee. Cheltenham, UK and Northamton, MA, USA: Edward Elgar, 2008.
Abstract:
This book aims to enlarge the understanding of decision- making on mega-projects and suggest recommendations for a more effective, efficient, and democratic approach. Authors from different scientific disciplines address institutional and management aspects of the decision-making process, cost-benefit analysis, risk, planning, innovation, competition, and ownership. The following questions are at the forefront: how do we deal with protracted and highly politicized preparation processes, how do we tackle risks and uncertainties, and how can we best divide the risks and responsibilities among the private and public players throughout the different phases of the project?

"Curbing Optimism Bias and Strategic Misrepresentation in Planning:
Reference Class Forecasting in Practice." European Planning Studies, vol. 16, no. 1, January 2008, pp. 3-21.
Abstract: The American Planning Association recently endorsed a new forecasting method called reference class forecasting, which is based on theories of planning and decision-making that won the 2002 Nobel prize in economics. This paper details the method and describes the first instance of reference class forecasting in planning practice. First, the paper documents that inaccurate projections of costs, demand, and other impacts of plans are a major problem in planning. Second, the paper explains inaccuracy in terms of optimism bias and strategic misrepresentation. Third, the theoretical basis is presented for reference class forecasting, which achieves accuracy in projections by basing them on actual performance in a reference class of comparable actions and thereby bypassing both optimism bias and strategic misrepresentation. Fourth, the paper presents the first case of practical reference class forecasting, which concerns cost projections for planning of large transportation infrastructure investments in the UK, including the Edinburgh Tram and London's £15 billion Crossrail project. Finally, potentials for and barriers to reference class forecasting are assessed.

Megaproject Policy and Planning: Problems, Causes, Cures. Summary of doctoral dissertation (Dr. habil.). Aalborg: Uni.print, Aalborg University, 2007, 62 pp.

Megaprojects and Risk: An Anatomy of Ambition. Book with Nils Bruzelius and Werner Rothengatter. Cambridge University Press, 2003, 218 pp.
Abstract: The book provides the first detailed examination of the phenomenon of megaprojects. It identifies what is called the "megaprojects paradox," that is, the fact that more and bigger megaprojects are built despite their poor performance record in terms of costs and benefits. The book provides an in-depth account of how the promoters of multi-billion-dollar megaprojects systematically misinform lawmakers, the public, and the media about the true costs and benefits of projects in order to get projects approved and built. This results in projects that are extremely risky, but where the risks are concealed. The study is based on data from several hundred projects in twenty nations and five continents. The book not only explores the problems but also suggests practical solutions. To see Table of Contents and more, click here. For a list of reviews of Megaprojects and Risk, click here.

"How (In)accurate Are Demand Forecasts in Public Works Projects? The Case of Transportation." Principal author: Bent Flyvbjerg; co-authors: Mette Skamris Holm and Søren L. Buhl. Journal of the American Planning Association, vol. 71, no. 2, Spring 2005, pp. 131-146.
Abstract: This article presents results from the first statistically significant study of traffic forecasts in transportation infrastructure projects. The sample used is the largest of its kind, covering 210 projects in 14 nations worth US$59 billion. The study shows with very high statistical significance that forecasters generally do a poor job of estimating the demand for transportation infrastructure projects. For 9 out of 10 rail projects, passenger forecasts are overestimated; the average overestimation is 106%. For half of all road projects, the difference between actual and forecasted traffic is more than ±20%. The result is substantial financial risks, which are typically ignored or downplayed by planners and decision makers to the detriment of social and economic welfare. The data also show that forecasts have not become more accurate over the 30-year period studied, despite claims to the contrary by forecasters. The causes of inaccuracy in forecasts are different for rail and road projects, with deliberately slanted forecasts playing a larger role for rail than for road. The cure is transparency, accountability, and new forecasting methods. The challenge is to change the governance structures for forecasting and project development. The article shows how planners may help achieve this.

Procedures for Dealing with Optimism Bias in Transport Planning: Guidance Document. Co-authors: Carsten Glenting and Arne Kvist Rønnest. London: UK Department for Transport, 2004, 61 pp. To see Executive Summary, click here.

"What Causes Cost Overrun in Transport Infrastructure Projects?" Principal author: Bent Flyvbjerg; co-authors: Mette K. Skamris Holm and Søren L. Buhl. Transport Reviews, vol. 24, no. 1, January 2004, pp. 3-18.
Abstract: Results from the first statistically significant study of the causes of cost escalation in transport infrastructure projects are presented. The study is based on a sample of 258 rail, bridge, tunnel, and road projects worth US$90 billion. The focus is on the dependence of cost escalation on: (1) the length of the project-implementation phase, (2) the size of the project, and (3) the type of project ownership. First, it was found, with very high statistical significance, that cost escalation was strongly dependent on the length of the implementation phase. The policy implications are clear: decision-makers and planners should be highly concerned about delays and long implementation phases because they translate into risks of substantial cost escalations. Second, projects have grown larger over time, and for bridges and tunnels larger projects have larger percentage cost escalations. Finally, by comparing the cost escalation for three types of project ownership—private, state-owned enterprise, and other public ownership—it was shown that the oft-seen claim that public ownership is problematic and private ownership effective in curbing cost escalation is an oversimplification. The type of accountability appears to matter more to cost escalation than type of ownership.

"Underestimating Costs in Public Works Projects: Error or Lie?" Principal author: Bent Flyvbjerg; co-authors: Mette K. Skamris Holm and Søren L. Buhl. Journal of the American Planning Association, vol. 68, no. 3, Summer 2002, pp. 279-295.
Abstract: This article presents results from the first statistically significant study of cost escalation in transportation infrastructure projects. Based on a sample of 258 transportation infrastructure projects worth US$90 billion and representing different project types, geographical regions, and historical periods, it is found with overwhelming statistical significance that the cost estimates used to decide whether such projects should be built are highly and systematically misleading. Four types of explanation are tested: Technical, psychological, economic, and political. Underestimation cannot be explained by error and is best explained by strategic misrepresentation, that is, lying. The policy implications are clear: legislators, administrators, investors, media representatives, and members of the public who value honest numbers should not trust cost estimates and cost-benefit analyses produced by project promoters and their analysts.

"Big Decisions, Big Risks: Improving Accountability in Mega Projects." Co-authors: Nils Bruzelius and Werner Rothengatter. Transport Policy, vol. 9, no. 2, April 2002, pp. 143-154.
Abstract: Inadequate risk management and lack of accountability are central reasons for the poor track record documented for many megaprojects. The conventional approach to project development is replaced by an institutionalistic one focusing on risk and accountability. Redrawing the borderlines of private and public involvement, four specific measures to handle risk and accountability are suggested and detailed: (1) Transparency, (2) Performance specifications, (3) Explication of regulatory regimes, and (4) Involvement of risk capital. The decision on whether or not to build a multi-billion dollar fixed link across the Baltic Sea connecting Scandinavia and Germany is used as an illustrative case. However, the approach developed is relevant for other major projects in other countries as well.

Other Publications on Megaprojects by Bent Flyvbjerg

"Delusion and Deception in Large Infrastructure Projects: Two Models for Explaining and Preventing Executive Disaster." Co-authors: Massimo Garbuio and Dan Lovallo. California Management Review, vol. 51, no. 2, Winter 2009, pp. 170-193.

"Public Planning of Mega-projects: Overestimation of Demand and Underestimation of Costs." In Hugo Priemus, Bent Flyvbjerg, and Bert van Wee, eds., Decision-Making On Mega-Projects: Cost-benefit Analysis, Planning, and Innovation. Cheltenham, UK and Northamton, MA, USA: Edward Elgar, 2008, pp. 120-144.

"Truth and Lies About Megaprojects." Faculty of Technology, Policy, and Management, Delft University of Technology, September 2007.

"Policy and Planning for Large-Infrastructure Projects: Problems, Causes, Cures." Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design, vol. 34, 2007, pp. 578-597.

"How Optimism Bias and Strategic Misrepresentation in Early Project Development Undermine Implementation." In Kjell J. Sunnevåg, ed., Beslutninger på svakt informasjonsgrunnlag: Tilnærminger og utfordringer i projekters tidlige fase (Decisions based on weak information: Approaches and challenges in the early phase of projects). Trondheim, Norway: Concept Program, The Norwegian University of Science and Technology, 2007, pp. 41-55.

"Eliminating Bias in Early Project Development through Reference Class Forecasting and Good Governance." In Kjell J. Sunnevåg, ed., Beslutninger på svakt informasjonsgrunnlag: Tilnærminger og utfordringer i projekters tidlige fase (Decisions based on weak information: Approaches and challenges in the early phase of projects). Trondheim, Norway: Concept Program, The Norwegian University of Science and Technology, 2007, pp. 90-110.

"Cost Overruns and Demand Shortfalls in Urban Rail and Other Infrastructure," Transportation Planning and Technology, vol. 30, no. 1, February 2007, pp. 9-30.

"Megaprojects and Risk." In William L. Richter and Frances Burke, eds., Combating Corruption, Encouraging Ethics: A Practical Guide to Management Ethics. Second Edition. Principal author: Bent Flyvbjerg; co-authors: Nils Bruzelius and Werner Rothengatter. Published in cooperation with The American Society for Public Administration. Lanham, MA and Plymouth, UK: Rowman and Littlefield, 2007, pp. 52-58.

"Design by Deception: The Politics of Megaproject Approval." In William S. Saunders, ed., Urban Planning Today. Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 2006, pp. 131-148.

"From Nobel Prize to Project Management: Getting Risks Right." Project Management Journal, vol. 37, no. 3, August 2006, pp. 5-15.

"Inaccuracy in Traffic Forecasts." Principal author: Bent Flyvbjerg; co-authors: Mette Skamris Holm and Søren L. Buhl. Transport Reviews, vol. 26, no. 1, January 2006, pp. 1-24.

"Policy and Planning for Large Infrastructure Projects: Problems, Causes, Cures." Policy Research Working Paper, WPS 3781, World Bank, Washington, DC, 2005, 32 pp.

"Credibility Problem for Transit: Response to Millar." Journal of the American Planning Association, vol. 71, no. 4, Autumn 2005, p. 452.

"Machiavellian Megaprojects." Antipode, vol. 37, no. 1, January 2005, pp. 18-22.

"Megaprojects and Risk: An Anatomy of Ambition." The Sociologist, vol. 1, no. 1, Summer 2004, pp. 50-55.

"Getting the Cost Right and Dealing with Optimism Bias." In Major Projects Association, Strategic Planning of Major Projects. Oxford: Templeton College, 2004, pp. 24-33.

"Misrepresentation Drives Projects." Engineering News-Record, January 5, 2004, p. 87.

"Megaprojects and Risk: A Conversation With Bent Flyvbjerg." Interview conducted by Renia Ehrenfeucht. Critical Planning, vol. 11, 2004, pp. 51-63.

"Delusions of Success: Comment on Dan Lovallo and Daniel Kahneman." Harvard Business Review, December 2003, pp. 121-122.

"Response to Roger Remington." Principal author: Bent Flyvbjerg; co-authors: Mette K. Skamris Holm and Søren Buhl. Journal of the American Planning Association, vol. 69, no. 1, Winter 2003, p. 83.

"The Lying Game." EuroBusiness, vol. 5, no. 1, June 2003, pp. 60-62.

"Machiavellian Tunnelling." World Tunnelling, March 2003, p. 43.

"How Common and How Large Are Cost Overruns in Transport Infrastructure Projects?" Principal author: Bent Flyvbjerg; co-authors: Mette K. Skamris Holm and Søren L. Buhl. Transport Reviews, vol. 23, no. 1, January-March 2003, pp. 71-88.

"Inaccuracy of Traffic Forecasts and Cost Estimates On Large Transport Projects." Co-author: Mette K. Skamris. Transport Policy, vol. 4, no. 3, July, 1997, pp. 141-146.

"Accuracy of Traffic Forecasts and Cost Estimates On Large Transportation Projects." Co-author: Mette K. Skamris. In Transportation Research Board, National Research Council, ed., Transportation Planning Applications. Transportation Research Record, no. 1518. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1996, pp. 65-69.

Fehmarn Belt: Issues of Accountability. Lessons and Recommendations Regarding Appraisal of a Fixed Link Across Fehmarn Belt. Co-authors: Nils Bruzelius and Werner Rothengatter. Report no. 95:03. Copenhagen: The Danish Transport Council, May 1995, 167 pp.

Facts About Fehmarn Belt: Fact-finding Study on a Fixed Link Across Fehmarn Belt. Co-authors: Nils Bruzelius and Werner Rothengatter. Report no. 95:02. Copenhagen: The Danish Transport Council, March 1995, 84 pp.

"The Lack of Technology Assessment in Relation to Big Infrastructural Decisions." Co-authors: Mads Christoffersen and Jørgen Lindgaard Pedersen. In Technology and Democracy: the Use and Impact of Technology Assessment in Europe. Proceedings, vol. I from the 3rd European Congress on Technology Assessment. Copenhagen, November 4-7 1992, pp. 54-75.

Publications on Megaprojects in other Languages by Bent Flyvbjerg:

Danish

Danmarks Transportinfrastruktur 2030: Sammenfatning (Denmark's Transportation Infrastructure in 2030: Summary Report), Summary of Commission Report no. 1493. Co-authors: 20 other commission-members (Copenhagen: Infrastrukturkommissionen, 2008), 29 pp.
To download, please click here

Danmarks Transportinfrastruktur 2030 (Denmark's Transportation Infrastructure in 2030), Commission Report no. 1493. Co-authors: 20 other commission-members (Copenhagen: Infrastrukturkommissionen, 2008), 312 pp.

Danmarks Transportinfrastruktur 2030: Bilag (Denmark's Transportation Infrastructure in 2030: Appendices), Appendices for Commission Report no. 1493. Co-authors: 20 other commission-members (Copenhagen: Infrastrukturkommissionen, 2008), 247 pp.

"Reference Class Forecasting (RCF): Idé, metode og anvendelse" (Reference Class Forecasting: Idea, Method, and Application). In Niels Ahrengot and Søren Stuhr, eds., Ledelseshåndbogen Projektledelse (The Management Handbook on Project Management). Copenhagen: Børsen Press, 2007, pp. 5.4.1-5.4.16.

"Hvorfor går store projekter galt?" Med forord af Bjørn Rothaus. I Bjørn Rothaus, ed., Risk Management (København: Forlaget Andersen, 2007), pp. 1-6.

Megaprojekters politik og planlægning: Problemer, årsager, løsninger (Megaproject Policy and Planning: Problems, Causes, Cures). Sammenfattende redegørelse for doktorafhandling. Aalborg: Uni.Print, Aalborg Universitet, 2007, 62 pp.

"Femern: Derfor er vi kritiske over for trafikprognoserne" (Fehmarn Belt: Why We Are Critical of the Traffic Forecasts). Co-authors: Otto Anker Nielsen and Jens Rørbech. Ingeniøren, no. 15, April 2000, p 4.

"Notat om arbejdet med vurdering af trafikanalyser og -prognoser, Femer Bælt" (Paper on Evaluation of Traffic Analyses and Forecasts, Fehmarn Belt). Co-authors: Otto Anker Nielsen and Jens Rørbech. Presented at Conference on Fehmarn Belt organized by the Ministry of Transport and the Danish Transport Council, Copenhagen, 13 January 2000, 24 pp.

"Er der særlige problemer ved megaprojekter, og hvordan løser vi dem?" (Do Mega Projects Pose Special Problems, and How Do We Solve Them?). In The Danish Transport Council and Bysted, Inc., eds., Når myndighederne spørger og borgerne svarer (When the Administration Asks and Citizens Reply). Copenhagen: The Danish Transport Council, July, 1999, p. 6.

"En institutionalistisk tilgang til større ansvarlighed i beslutninger om store infrastrukturinvesteringer: Østersøforbindelsen som eksempel" (An Institutional Approach to Greater Accountability in Decisions Regarding Major Infrastructure Investments: The Case of the Baltic Sea Link). Samfundsøkonomen, October 1996:6, pp. 4-12. Also printed in Nordisk Administrativt Tidsskrift, vol. 77, no. 2, 1996, pp. 111-120.

"Femer Bælt: Risiko og beslutninger" (Fehmarn Belt: Risk and Decision). Byplan, vol. 48, no. 4, September 1996, pp. 173-179.

"Risiko som nøglebegreb i beslutninger om store infrastrukturinvesteringer: Østersøforbindelsen som eksempel" (Risk as a Key Concept in Decisions on Major Infrastructure Investments: the Case of the Baltic Sea Link). Dansk Vejtidsskrift, vol. 73, no. 2, February 1996, pp. 15-19.

"Femer Bælt: Sådan sikres et beslutningsgrundlag, som er bedre end for Øresund, Storebælt og Kanaltunellen" (Fehmarn Belt: How to Improve Upon Øresund, Great Belt, and the Channel Tunnel). In Anker Lohmann-Hansen, ed., Trafikdage '95 på AUC. Conference Report, vol. I. Aalborg and Copenhagen: Aalborg University and The Danish Transport Council, 1995, pp. 97-106.

"Transportrådets arbejdsgruppe, dens arbejde og anbefalinger i relation til beslutningsprocessen om Femern Bælt" (The Danish Transport Council's Expert Group, Its Work and Recommendations in Relation to the Decision Making Process for Fehmarn Belt). In Teknologirådet, ed., Femern og fremtiden (Fehmarn and the Future). Copenhagen: The Danish Technology Council, 1995, pp. 20-27.

Dutch

"Stenografisch verslag van een gesprek in het kader van de Tijdelijke Commissie Infrastructuurprojecten op 30 augustus 2004 in de Enquetezaal van het Logement te Den Haag." In Tijdelijke Commissie Infrastructuurprojecten, Onderzoek naar infrastructuurprojecten: Openbare gesprekken. Report 29 283, no. 11. The Hague: Tweede Kamer der Staten-Generaal, 2004-2005, pp. 11-13.

"Verslag hoorzittingen Professor Bent Flyvbjerg." In Tijdelijke Commissie Infrastructuurprojecten, Grote Projecten: Inzichten en uitgangspunten. Achtergrondstudies. Report 29 283, no. 10. The Hague: Tweede Kamer der Staten-Generaal, 2004-2005, pp. 249-260.

"Liegen voor groen licht." Interview. Profiel: Weekblad voor medewerkers, no. 12, April 2004, p. 4.

French

"Décisions importantes, risques importantes: améliorer la responsabilité dans les mégaprojets." Co-authors: Nils Bruzelius and Werner Rothengatter. French translation by the journal. Revue Internationale des Sciences Administratives, vol. 64, no. 3, September 1998, pp. 487-508.

German

"Kultur der Fehlinformation." Interview and German translation by Gordon Bolduan. Technology Review, no. 1, January 2008. For the full- length interview, see www.technologyreview.de/flyvbjerg.

"Politischer Druck: Warum zu viel Optimismus schadet." German translation by the journal. Harvard Business Manager , January 2004, p. 121.

"Kostenunterschätzung bei öffentlichen Bauprojekten: Fehler oder Lüge?" Principal author: Bent Flyvbjerg; co-authors: Mette K. Skamris Holm and Søren Buhl. German translation by Simon Güntner. Planungs-rundschau, 8, November 2003, pp. 15-34.

Japanese

"Inaccuracy in Traffic Forecasts: Part 2." Principal author: Bent Flyvbjerg; co-authors: Mette K. Skamris Holm and Søren L. Buhl. Japanese translation by the journal. Expressways and Motorways, vol. 50, no. 11, November 2007, pp. 56-64.

"Inaccuracy in Traffic Forecasts: Part 1." Principal author: Bent Flyvbjerg; co-authors: Mette K. Skamris Holm and Søren L. Buhl. Japanese translation by the journal. Expressways and Motorways, vol. 50, no. 10, October 2007, pp. 56-65.

Italian

"Sottostima dei costi dei progetti di opere pubbliche: Errore casuale o intenzionale?" Principal author: Bent Flyvbjerg; co-authors: Mette K. Skamris Holm and Søren Buhl. Italian translation by Maria Rosa Sodero. Archivio di studi urbani e regionali, no. 82, 2005.

Norwegian

"Lager veiplanleggere ærligere prognoser enn jernbaneplanleggere?"
Principal author: Petter Næss; co-authors: Bent Flyvbjerg and Søren Buhl. Plan, No. 3-4, 2006, pp. 78-83.

Russian

Megaprojects and Risk: An Anatomy of Ambition. Moscow: Bершина Press, 2005, 219 pp.

Spanish

"¿Imprecisión de las previsiones de los proyectos de Obras Públicas? Ámbito del transporte." Principal author: Bent Flyvbjerg; co-authors: Mette K. Skamris Holm and Søren L. Buhl. Spanish translation by the journal. Estudios de Construcción y Transportes, no. 105, July- December 2006, pp. 195-214.

"Subestimacion de costes en proyectos de obras publicas: error o mentira?" Principal author: Bent Flyvbjerg; co-authors: Mette K. Skamris Holm and Søren L. Buhl. Spanish translation by the journal. Estudios de Construccion y Transportes, no. 98, June 2003, pp. 137-158.

Swedish

"Sanning och lögn om megaprojekt" (Truth and Lies About Megaprojects). Swedish translation from English by Leif Åberg. Framtider, no. 4, 2007, pp. 4-10.

"Underskattade kostnader i infrastrukturprojekt: felräkning eller lögn?" Principal author: Bent Flyvbjerg; co-authors: Mette K. Skamris Holm and Søren Buhl. Swedish translation and adaption by the editors. Plan, no. 4, 2004, pp. 8-11.

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Department of Development and Planning, Aalborg University, Fibigerstraede 11 - 13, DK-9220 Aalborg East, Denmark, Phone: (+45) 96 35 80 80