Inaccuracy in traffic forecasts: lying or strategizing? A contextualist analysis of a troubled initiative in the Hong Kong container industry

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Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to look into the fate of a troubled initiative in Hong Kong that was developed in the midst of discussions between Beijing and London leading towards the 1997 handover. It sets out to shred new light on the “forecasting gap”: the gap between the anticipated level of traffic and the real volume of traffic in the years following the opening of a new infrastructure. Design/methodology/approach – This research uses primarily qualitative methods. The data collection process comprises three main activities: documentary search, observational and ethnographic material, and interviews. The general strategy of data presentation and analysis is to develop a descriptive framework for organizing the longitudinal case‐study. Findings – The paper puts forward that there is little basis to the claim of Machiavellian practices in the Hong Kong container handling community. The analysis suggests that the gaps are residual of prolonged decision‐making processes featuring a diversity of stakeholders strategizing in pursuing their respective agenda. Originality/value – Contextualist analysis of the “traffic forecasting gap” challenges the popular and widespread view that traffic forecasts are intentionally biased to serve the interests of the promoters.

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