Lobbying for Infrastructure Projects

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I have dabbled a bit in infrastructure before becoming the lobbyist for Amsterdam Transport, however, now I am doing it full-fledged. Lobbying for infrastructure is a sport on its own. It’s always long term, it usually requires you to use a mix of technical advocacy and political lobbying. Infrastructure lobbying is also often about high stakes, both financially as well politically. It is a tale of who gets in and who gets left out. While I can’t claim to be the guru lobbyist when it comes to lobbying for infrastructure lobbying, I can share with you what I learned over the course of two years. 

The Lobby is just a small part of the story 

Lobbying can certainly help when governments decide which infrastructure projects get executed, however, two things are much more important. First is that you actually have co-financing. Whether you are applying for funding from the Dutch MIRT or the European Ten-T money, you will need to bring your own money to the table. Sadly, a lot of stakeholders (regional and local authorities) start with the lobbying campaign without giving much thought to how they are going to cough up their part of the deal. Making sure you have the amount of co-financing needed is sure half of the work. It becomes tempting for your national government to take a serious look at your proposal. Secondly, you must also have done your technical homework. Anything from impact studies, to feasibility studies or anything which is required before you can put the shovel in the ground. This is also where a lot of decentral authorities falter. Being able to do the technical homework and a lot of local governments don’t have the manpower to see this through. Instead, they erroneously turn to lobbying as a way out. The result is a lot of brouhaha without any perspective of funding. 

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That darn technical lobby 

If you have arranged your co-financing and have the capacity to do your homework, most of the actual lobbying will be on a technical level. Make sure that your city is named on a list of corridors of national or European importance. In Brussels, this means being on one of the Ten-T corridors. In the Netherlands this means either being named in the Future of Transport policy papers or in the government accord. In order to be accepted in these policy documents, you will need to show the flow of travelers or the bottleneck that prevents the rest of the country from thriving. This will require you to look up statisticians or transport models in order to make the case. If you can’t show the numbers which make your corridor something of national interest, you will need to target the model itself and make the claim that it doesn’t adequately reflect the problems of our times. In a separate stage, you will have to make a cost-benefit analysis which also requires you to be inventive in order to get the benefits to overcome the costs. In each case, you will have to have someone willing to dive into the numbers. You will not be able to frame yourself out of this one. 

Lobby – relentlessly

Then of course there is the political lobby. Lobby relentlessly. From the interviews I did and my own experience; more is more. Because infrastructure easily goes into the billions, you will not be able to gain traction with one visit or one position paper. You will have to almost heckle politicians and policymakers with your projects (of course don’t cross the line). Make sure your message is delivered by a wide range of people; businesses, academia, journalists, local aldermen, hospitals. Don’t waste any moment to push for your project. And finally; brace yourself, this will take a couple of years from your life. As a pet project, I am lobbying to get a pedestrian road in my neighborhood. This is a relatively small investment and a small intervention. I am already 2 years in and no shovel has hit the ground. The most shocking part of this is that the lobby is actually going in the right direction.

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