A derailed vision

Technical success overrides a weak business case in a Chinese high-speed train project

In analyzing the US$1.08 billion effort to realize Transrapid Shanghai, China's first commercial magnetic levitation rail train, a project that began service in December 2003, one month after the train set a world speed record for traveling 311 miles per hour (501kph), the author explains thatdespite the best efforts of the project team to realize what is rightfully recognized as an engineering marvel and to successfully meet the project's budgeting and scheduling goals, the effort is, in the wake of its outcome, far from a paradigm for project success: only 600 passengers travel the line each day. To understand the reasons causing Transrapid's failure to attract passengers, the author talks with Oliver F. Lehmann, PMP, vice president of professional development for PMI's Troubled Projects Specific Interest Group. Mr. Lehmann discusses the factors shaping the project's failure, factors that involve the project team's failing to link the deliverable to its return on investment.
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