Cost escalations in the front-end of projects – empirical evidence from Norwegian road projects
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionTransport reviews. 2017, 37 (5), 612-630. 10.1080/01441647.2016.1278285
This paper investigates an issue largely ignored in the transport literature on cost overruns, namely, cost increases in the early project phase, long before the decision to build is made. This is the phase of project planning that is referred to as the front-end phase in the literature. The rationale of the study is that unless cost estimates during the front-end phase are relatively accurate, the wrong projects may be selected for further development. We first argue for why it is important to address cost escalation during the front-end phase of project planning. We then use Norwegian data to demonstrate the magnitude of cost escalations during the front-end phase of projects and in comparison to the implementation phase. We find that even in a sample of projects with relatively small cost overruns as in the case of Norway, there are substantial cost increases before the formal decision to build was made. This raises the issue of whether decisions and priorities taken at the early stages of project development are based on false information and whether this may lead to the wrong project concepts being selected.