Summary of Megaprojects and Risk

An Anatomy of Ambition

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Megaprojects and Risk book summary
Want to buy the Brooklyn Bridge? Before spending your tax dollars on a megaproject, learn the real costs, use and risks.


9 Overall

8 Applicability

10 Innovation

8 Style


Every once in a while a little book comes along that, while small in size, carries sufficient intellectual weight to strike the body politic between the eyes, thereby getting its collective attention. This may be one such book. It offers a realistic look at megaprojects - those major infrastructure endeavors that span vast bodies of water, dam natural resources to generate energy and extend rail lines to previously unreachable regions - and compares the promises of these projects to what they actually deliver. The report card isn’t very good. Cost overruns are typically 25% to 100%, and sometimes 200% or more. Worse yet, studies show that the public tends to use megaprojects - be they airports or subway systems - only a fraction of the amount predicted. strongly recommends this book to politicians, legislators and anyone who wants to know the truth behind these huge infrastructure projects, as well as to CEOs, CFOs, project managers and risk officers in the private sector - this applies to your projects, even if there is a difference of scale.

In this summary, you will learn

  • What megaprojects are
  • What risks they entail due to incorrect forecasts of costs and use
  • How to counter those risks
  • How megaprojects affect the economy and public policy


Big, Bigger, Biggest
Welcome to megaprojects - the civil engineering equivalents of the Great Pyramids, vast and complex engineering tasks. Completing them requires marshalling the resources of an entire region or nation over a period of many years or even decades.

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About the Authors

Bent Flyvbjerg is the author of Making Social Science Matter and Rationality and Power. He is a professor in the department of development and planning at Aalborg University. Nils Bruzelius is an independent consultant who specializes in transport and planning. He is an associate professor at Stockholm University. Werner Rothengatter is the chief of the Institute of Economic Policy Research and of the unit on transport and communication at the University of Karlsruhe, Germany.

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