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Chantal Cantarelli is a Research Fellow at the BT Centre for Major Programme Management at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford.
The BT Centre’s role is to understand how to best manage major programmes at a time when spending on infrastructure and large-scale projects is the highest it has ever been as a share of world GDP. Chantal’s research examines transport infrastructure and the influence project ownership and financing have on project performance.
There is a widespread belief that the private sector is more efficient than the public sector, which has led in recent years to a resurgence of interest in private-sector involvement in the provision of infrastructure. Chantal argues that there is little evidence to demonstrate that private projects do indeed perform better than public ones in terms of cost escalation, drawing upon preliminary analysis by Professor Bent Flyvbjerg, BT Professor of Major Programme Management, which suggests that projects in public ownership perform better though the difference in performance between public and private projects has not yet been found to be statistically significant.
Prior to joining the BT Centre, Chantal worked as a PhD researcher at the section of Transport Policy and Logistics of the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands. Her doctorate investigated cost overruns in large-scale transport infrastructure projects. During this time she supervised undergraduate students on the Systems Engineering, Policy Analysis and Management (SEPAM) programme. Chantal also took her Master’s degree at the Delft University of Technology, receiving the Cuperus award in 2007 for the best Master thesis at a Dutch University in the field of transport studies and technology.
Her areas of expertise include:
All too often large projects fall foul of substantial cost escalations. These are typically seen as signs of inefficiency and are often associated with public-sector projects. Chantal’s research aims to assess the influence of project ownership and financing on project performance of major programmes, where performance encompasses cost overrun, schedule and demand shortfall, unit costs, and viability. She is concerned with the probable cost performance of public-private partnership (PPP) projects and whether there is a difference between public, private or PPP projects.
Cost overruns in Large-Scale Transport Infrastructure Projects. A theoretical and empirical exploration for the Netherlands and worldwide.
Infrastructure investment per square kilometer is probably higher in the Netherlands than in any other European country, yet little is known about the actual costs of this infrastructure, to what degree it was built on budget and schedule.
Chantal’s research benchmarks the problems, causes and cures of transport infrastructure planning in the Netherlands compared to other nations, and investigates how to improve current practices of managing major transport infrastructure programmes.
Chantal’s research contributes to our understanding of major programme management, in particular decision-making and financing.
Much of her work is focused on theories of 'lock in', that is, the escalating commitment of decision makers to an ineffective course of action which has by definition negative consequences. She also explores theories of ‘optimism bias’, the systematic tendency to be overly optimistic about the outcomes of actions, and strategic misrepresentation, the deliberate and strategic underestimation of schedule and costs when forecasting the outcomes of projects. Each of these issues is significant for the successful completion of major programmes on time and on budget.
The Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment financed Chantal’s PhD research and supported data collection. Twice yearly, she attended meetings with members of the Ministry to review the content and progress of her research. She has presented papers at conferences in the Netherlands and has attended conferences in Norway and the USA.
Chantal’s work has won her a number of awards, including the Cuperus Award 2007 for the best Masters thesis in a Dutch University in the field of transport studies and technology and, in 2006, the Young Talent Award at the Dutch CVS conference.
Chantal is the Dissertation Supervisor of several students on the MSc Major Programme Management course.
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