Controlling cost overruns on rail projects: a European perspective

30 June 2009  •  Author(s): Professor Matti Siemiatycki, Transportation Policy & Planning Specialist, University of Toronto

Across Europe and around the world, media headlines report a now familiar story. ‘Tube repairs at risk as cost overrun hits £750m’1. ‘Amsterdam Metro Line Sinks Deeper into Trouble’2. ‘Trenton: Rail Construction Faces Cost Overruns’3. And in the most recent setback for the Edinburgh tram project, ‘Tram line design months late as budget slips £10m off track’4. While these media headlines may cover one-off projects, each with their own unique local circumstances that led to escalating costs, there is a growing body of evidence that overruns are a persistent feature of large urban and intercity rail projects. Understanding the patterns and causes of cost overruns is central to developing effective remedies.

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