Perceived risk of lock-in in the front-end phase of major transportation projects

Chantal C. Cantarelli*, David Oglethorpe, Bert van Wee

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
26 Downloads (Pure)


Lock-in is defined as the tendency to continue with an inefficient decision or project proposal. The front-end phase is critical to project success, yet most studies have focused on lock-in in the implementation phase. Moreover, little is known about the way in which decision-makers perceive the risk of lock-in. In this paper we identify determinants of lock-in in the front-end phase and we reveal decision-makers’ perceptions of risk of lock-in. Our findings show that risk attitudes towards lock-in vary with the level of risk aversion. However, this is not sufficiently acute to drive the level of regret needed to avoid lock-in. This implies that decision-makers do not accurately assess the risk of lock-in and as such their risk perceptions are a mediating factor in the formation of lock-in. Based on escalation of commitment, path dependency, and prospect theory, the main contribution lies in providing a more comprehensive understanding of lock-in in the front-end phase.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)703-733
Number of pages31
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Decision-making
  • Escalation of commitment
  • Lock-in
  • Major transportation projects
  • Path dependency
  • Risk perception

Cite this