The governance of megaproject developments
: lessons from the comparison of two contested infrastructure projects

  • Alfred Burballa Noria

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The purpose of this thesis is to identify and understand the factors and mechanisms that underpin the resilience of megaproject developments. To interrogate the subject, the study draws tools from critical urban political theory which enable to analyse and conceptualise the multiple political and governance components making up the process.

The study consists of a qualitative design and adopts a comparative strategy. The comparison is conducted between two high-speed railway contested developments: the New Line TurinLyon (Italy) and the New Railway for the Basque Country (Spain). In terms of data collection, the study relies on semi-structured interviews, documents and complementary participant observations. Salient elements within the governance processes are inductively identified through the thematic analysis technique. The analysis is then supported by a contextualisation of the case studies that highlights a plethora of aspects with implications for the governance process.

The analysis notes the different interrelated mechanisms and governance arrangements that contribute to the buttressing of the megaproject development processes. In first instance it notes how the extant politico-economic configurations and structures constitute a relevant source of support through their discourses and techniques of government but also through the underlying consent. Additionally, from a agency-centred perspective, it outlines further manoeuvres and tactics that contribute to strengthen the megaproject plans, from coalitional practices to managerial arrangements. Lastly, it interrogates the ways in which the opposition is undermined to further secure the plans through the operating state selectivities in addition to coercive measures.

Accordingly, the thesis brings forward a unique contribution to the field of megaproject scholarly work emphasising on the political nature of their governance. It concludes noting that the factors and mechanisms underlying megaproject governance are multi-faceted. More specifically, their resilience derives from practices on the ground but also from the politicoeconomic and socio-spatial configurations in which, as political processes, they are inserted.
Date of AwardOct 2018
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorKarl O'Connor (Supervisor) & Kristian Lasslett (Supervisor)


  • Megaproject
  • Urban governance
  • Urban politics
  • Infrastructure-related conflicts

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