Start digging a hole, and make it so big
Superlatives are at the heart of people’s infatuation with megaprojects — the irresistible attraction of building the world’s tallest building or biggest cruise ship (wrote Jacques Leslie).
[The Trouble with Megaprojects, Jacques Leslie, The New Yorker, April 11, 2015]
[Bent Flyvbjerg, a management professor at the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School] writes that megaproject planners are often outright dishonest, systematically overestimating benefits and underestimating costs. He cites an unusually candid comment that Willie Brown, a former speaker of the California State Assembly and mayor of San Francisco, made in a 2013 newspaper column. Referring to huge cost overruns during the construction of San Francisco’s four-and-a-half-billion-dollar Transbay Transit Center, Brown wrote, “We always knew the initial estimate was way under the real cost…. If people knew the real cost from the start, nothing would ever be approved. The idea is to get going. Start digging a hole and make it so big, there’s no alternative to coming up with the money to fill it in.”
Although Manchester and London are only around 300 km apart, the proposed HS2 railway between the two cities would include sections of track built for linespeeds of 400 km/h. With its £50 billion ‘budget’, rigged economic assessment, and bizarre technical specification, it would be Europe’s most meretricious megaproject.