Sustainable Development and Stakeholder Engagement:


Lessons Learned from Infrastructure Megaprojects in Europe



By Ermal Hetemi, PhD

KTH Royal Institute of Technology
Stockholm, Sweden


William A. Moylan, PhD

College of Engineering & Technology
Eastern Michigan University
Ypsilanti, Michigan, USA


The paper will address the results gleaned from the case studies of utilizing BIM as a decision support tool for infrastructure programs within an inter-organizational context, summarize the insights from the infrastructure delivery scenarios [case studies] applicable to other national scenarios (including the USA), and, opine on multi-attribute decision making addressing the PEESTLE factors – political, energy/environmental, ethical, social, technical, legal and economic, by infrastructure related inter-organizations. The key lessons learned deal with sustainable development and stakeholder engagement, which have appropriate application on all types of large infrastructure projects sponsored by government entities and executed by public / private partnerships.


The transport sector accounts for a large share of global CO2 emissions. To mitigate the impact of climate change, several sustainability-oriented large-scale infrastructure projects have recently been on the policy agenda around the globe, such as electric road systems and expanding rail systems. A parallel development that is expected to accelerate the transition of the transport sector is digitalization. Although ongoing for many decades, these initiatives have recently been augmented by virtual concepts such as artificial intelligence (AI) and smart city technologies. The integration of these digitalization tools at the organizational level poses both opportunities and challenges for the actors involved in infrastructure projects.

An approach that is currently promoted in the infrastructure sector is Building Information Modeling (BIM). BIM supports decision-making that leverages various digitalization tools and applications. Although the economic implications of BIM are widely discussed in the literature, the inter-organizational dynamics involving multiple actors in infrastructure projects are not fully grasped. Large infrastructure projects are sociotechnical endeavors embedded in complex institutional frames. The institutional norms, practices, and logics in them are significant. Responding to this scenario, the study conducted an institutional analysis putting the BIM approach in the inter-organizational context in infrastructure delivery. The paper, based on empirical data drawn from three organizations in infrastructure delivery in Spain, the Netherlands and other European countries, will share the analysis of the tensions among the key actors during BIM adoption and implementation.

Case Study – The Madrid-Barcelona HSL

The Madrid–Barcelona high-speed rail line is a 621-kilometre (386 mi) standard gauge railway line inaugurated on 20 February 2008. Designed for speeds of 350 km/h (217 mph) and compatibility with neighboring countries’ rail systems, it connects the cities of Madrid and Barcelona in 2 hours 30 minutes. In Barcelona the line is connected with the Perpignan–Barcelona high-speed rail line leading into France which connects it to the European high speed network (La Vanguardia, 20 February 2020).

There was criticism during the construction of the Madrid-Barcelona line. A critical report by the consulting firm KPMG, commissioned by ADIF (Administrador de Infraestructuras Ferroviarias) at the behest of the Ministry for Public Works (Ministerio de Fomento) on 23 June 2004, pointed to a lack of in-depth studies and over-hasty execution of works as the most important reasons for the problems that dogged construction of the AVE line. For example, during the construction of the AVE tunnel near Barcelona, several nearby buildings suffered damage from a sinkhole that appeared near a commuter rail station, damaging one of its platforms. The construction committee of Barcelona’s famed Sagrada Familia church lobbied for a re-routing of the tunnel; it passes within meters of the massive church’s foundations. It also passes equally near the UNESCO-recognized Casa Milà also designed by Antoni Gaudí. Until 2005, both Siemens and Talgo/Bombardier train sets failed to meet scheduled speed targets. However, in a test run during the homologation tests of the new S102 trains of RENFE, a train-set Talgo 350 (AVE S-102) reached a speed of 365 km/h (227 mph) on the night of the 25/26 June 2006, and in July 2006 a Siemens Velaro train-set (AVE S-103) reached the highest top speed ever in Spain: 403.7 km/h (250.8 mph). At this time, it was a record for railed vehicles in Spain and a world record for unmodified commercial service trainsets, as the earlier TGV and ICE records were achieved with specially modified and shortened trainsets, and the 1996 Shinkansen record of 443 km/h (275 mph) was using a test (non-commercial) trainset (Martin & Nombela, 2007).


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Editor’s note: Second Editions are previously published papers that have continued relevance in today’s project management world, or which were originally published in conference proceedings or in a language other than English.  Original publication acknowledged; authors retain copyright.  This paper was originally presented at the University of Maryland 2021 Virtual Project Management Symposium in April.  It is republished here with the permission of the author and conference organizers.

How to cite this paper: Hetemi, E., Moylan, W.A. (2021). Sustainable Development and Stakeholder Engagement: Lessons Learned from Infrastructure Megaprojects in Europe; presented at the University of Maryland 2021 Virtual Project Management Symposium, College Park, Maryland, USA in April 2021; republished in the PM World Journal, Vol. IX, Issue VIII, August. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/pmwj108-Aug2021-Hetemi-Moylan-sustainable-development-and-stakeholder-engagement-lessons-learned2.pdf

About the Authors

Ermal Hetemi, PhD

Stockholm, Sweden


Ermal Hetemi, PhD, is a Researcher in the Department of Industrial Economics and Management at KTH Royal Institute of Technology Stockholm (Sweden). He holds a PhD in the subject area of Industrial Economics and Management from Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (Spain), and a MSc. in Construction Management with honors (GPA 4.0) from Eastern Michigan University (United States). His main research interest focuses on the dynamics of institutions and inter-organizational actors in the large-scale project setting and innovation technologies in industrial engineering overall. His research was recognized with awards, including the PMI Donald S. Barrie award in 2015. He has published in project management, engineering, and administrative science journals. Since 2018, Ermal has acted as a committee member in the European Academy of Management Conference for the track “Multi-level perspective in major and megaprojects.” He has about ten years of experience in project management, including as a lecturer for a bachelor’s and master’s program in project management and as a consultant. Ermal can be contacted at ermal.hetemi@indek.kth.se


William A. Moylan, PhD

Ypsilanti, Michigan


William A. Moylan, PhD, PMP, FESD, DTM, is a Professor Emeritus with Eastern Michigan University – College of Engineering & Technology. He has extensive professional experience in all aspects of program and project management, including over eleven years internationally with the Saudi Arabian American Oil Co, and since 1983, has been involved in implementing information technology. He has degrees from Lawrence Technological University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Capella University. He is s active in a variety of professional societies and civic activities including American Society of Civil Engineers, Engineering Society of Detroit, Project Management Institute, Habitat for Humanity, and Toastmasters International.  He can be contacted at William.moylan@emich.edu