http://www.spiegel.de/international/business/disastrous-public-works-projects-in-germany-a-876856.htmlDisastrous Public Works Projects: A History of Political Deception in Germany
By Florian Diekmann, Michael Kröger and Anna Reimann
Berlin's airport debacle is turning into what seems like a never-ending scandal, with critics worrying the capital city has seriously damaged its image. But it's not the only place in Germany that has seen projects plagued by delays and exploding costs. Hamburg's iconic Elbphilharmonie will cost almost double what was originally planned.
Germany, respected around the world for its famed efficiency, quality construction and world-class engineering, is taking a beating to its reputation this year, with major problems plaguing a number of major public projects.
Whether it's the dazzling new train station in Stuttgart, Berlin's stylish new airport or Hamburg's stunning new concert hall, major public infrastructure projects often look great on paper. The costs appear to be bearable and politicians seem euphoric when they present their grand plans, emphasizing how they will change the region. And of course they won't take very long to build, either, they say.Ya se trate de la deslumbrante nueva estación de tren de Stuttgart, del nuevo aeropuerto de diseño de Berlín o del fabuloso palacio de conciertos de Hamburgo, los principales proyectos de obra pública a menudo se ven muy bien en el papel. Los costos parecen ser soportable y los políticos parecen eufóricos cuando presentan sus grandes planes, haciendo hincapié en la forma en que van a cambiar la región. Y, por supuesto, no se necesitara mucho tiempo para construirlos, o bien eso dicen.
But then one deadline gives way to another. Burdened by protests, requests for costly extras or other demands, the train stations, rail lines, airports and even concert halls still haven't been built. Costs rise -- doubling or even quadrupling. The people are outraged and a city's entire reputation can suffer, as has proven to be the case in Berlin with the failure to complete the city's new international airport. Politicians are always happy to tout the success of completed projects, but if problems creep up in their construction, few are willing to take any responsibility.Pero entonces un plazo da lugar a otro. Agobiado por las protestas, las solicitudes de cargos adicionales u otras demandas, las estaciones de tren, vías férreas, aeropuertos e incluso salas de conciertos aún no se han terminado. Los costos se elevan - duplican o incluso se cuadruplican. La gente se indigna y la reputación de toda una ciudad puede sufrir, como ha demostrado ser el caso en Berlín con el fracaso que supone la no terminación del nuevo aeropuerto internacional de la ciudad. Los políticos siempre están dispuestos a promocionar el éxito de los proyectos terminados, pero si los problemas se arrastran en su construcción, pocos están dispuestos a asumir ninguna responsabilidad.
In many instances, the false calculations are deliberate. Werner Rothengatter, a researcher at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, has studied major public works projects around the world. He says there's a similar pattern in democratic societies, where politicians have a tendency to deceive the public about the actual costs of these projects. En muchos casos, los cálculos falsos son deliberados. Werner Rothengatter, investigador en el Instituto de Tecnología de Karlsruhe, ha estudiado los principales proyectos de obras públicas en todo el mundo. Él dice que hay un patrón similar en las sociedades democráticas, donde los políticos tienen una tendencia a engañar al público sobre los costos reales de estos proyectos.
Rothengatter argues that cost overruns rarely come as a surprise -- regardless of whether they are from the Berlin airport or Hamburg's new Elbphilharmonie concert hall. During his research, he found that most politicians try to calculate the price to be as low as possible in order to obtain support for the projects -- deliberately veiling the potential risks.
"Those who provide honest estimates for projects from the very beginning have little chance of getting them off the ground," Rothengatter claims. Often those at the political helm take a calculated risk by assuming they won't be held personally responsible if the costs start to explode. A menudo, los políticamente que están al mando toman riesgos calculados, asumiendo que no serán personalmente responsables si los costos comienzan a explotar.
In a 2009 study, "Survival of the Unfittest: Why the Worst Infrastructure Gets Built," Danish researcher Bent Flyvbjerg of Oxford University argued that it often isn't the best projects that are completed, but those that "are made to look best on paper." Those, of course, are projects that "amass the highest cost overruns and benefit shortfalls."
Politicians Lack Expertise
An additional problem is that the supervisory boards overseeing these projects are often filled with politicians who have no expertise when it comes to major infrastructure projects, as evidenced in the case of the Berlin airport, where both Mayor Klaus Wowereit and Brandenburg Governor Matthias Platzeck (whose state is also a shareholder) are board members. But the administrators who are actually responsible for the day-to-day work on these projects are often hopelessly overextended.
Why, then, do amateurs take on these massive projects?
The reason is simple: Politicians are afraid of hiring general contractors to run the projects. Professionals are able to set a firm price, but it is often a much higher one than politicians would be able to sell to their constituents. In the case of the Berlin airport, it was put out to bid twice because the lowest offer during the first effort came in at 70 percent higher than the €620 million ($817 million) that Berlin, Brandenburg and the federal government were prepared to shell out. In the end, the government bodies opted to assume management responsibility for the project themselves. The cost of the terminal alone now is estimated to be at least €1.2 billion.
In that sense, nothing has changed over the years. In his study, Flyvbjerg concluded that deception when it comes to costs has been persistent in most of the countries studied over the past 70 years. From the very beginning costs are underestimated and benefits overestimated. Cost explosions occur most frequently on rail projects, with Flyvbjerg estimating that such projects end up costing, on average, 45 percent more than planned. Germany's Foreign Intelligence Headquarters
The country's BND foreign intelligence service has been planning to move from Munich to Berlin since 2003. The original cost of its new headquarters was estimated to be around €500 million. The complex has been under construction since 2006, but costs today have already risen to €912 million. But construction alone isn't the only cost to be considered in moving the intelligence agency to the capital city. Factoring in other expenses for the move, the government is calculating total costs to be €1.4 billion.Leipzig's City Tunnel
If you visit downtown Leipzig these days, you'll come across a massive construction zone near the main train station. It's all part of the city's new 1.5 kilometer (0.93 miles) City Tunnel, designed to move commuter trains more quickly through the city's Central Station, which is a terminus station. The project was supposed to be completed in 2009 at a cost of €572 million. Instead, it will cost €960 million and open at the end of 2013 at the earliest. Many critics had warned from the very beginning that the project would be too expensive.Berlin Airport
Arguably the biggest snafu of all in Germany these days is the Berlin Brandenburg Airport (BER). After reunification, it became clear to local leaders that instead of three airports (two in the west and one in the east), the city just needed one large one. In 1996, the city-state of Berlin reached a deal with the state of Brandenburg and the federal government to build an airport that would be financed and operated exclusively by private investors. Following legal disputes and planning problems, Mayor Klaus Wowereit abandoned the original plan, and instead the city, state and federal government became shareholders and took over planning and construction of the airport. By the time construction was approved in 2006, costs were estimated to be about €2 billion. Once again, the airport operator opened construction up to a bidding process, but the concrete prices offered were too high. Instead, the partners sought to have the terminal built on their own, with a planned opening date of October 2011. It has since been delayed four times, with officials citing problems with the elaborate fire safety system. A new date hasn't been given for its opening, but it won't be before 2014. In the end, the airport will cost at least €4.3 billion. Meanwhile, companies like Air Berlin, Germany's second biggest airline, are suing for lost revenues.