Feeds

Galileo slammed by UK politicians

'Stop this folly'

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

British MPs have expressed their concern over plans from the European Commission aimed at advancing the troubled Euro-collaborative sat nav project Galileo.

The Transport committee of the House of Commons warned that Europe (and in particular the UK) was "sleepwalking" into a multibillion-pound commitment without any proper debate as to whether Galileo was actually required, and if so for what.

Galileo currently faces a huge funding shortfall amounting to £1.7bn. This is because it was originally intended to be a public-private partnership, with industry paying a lot of the construction costs in exchange for the opportunity to make money from the system subsequently.

However, earlier this year it finally became clear that industry had no confidence that there would be enough revenue to justify such a large initial outlay. The American GPS sat nav system (used by the vast majority of the world's receivers) is up and running, with a freely-available civil signal offering good accuracy. The European private sector were understandably sceptical that many customers would cough up good money for Galileo pay services, even if they were a trifle more accurate.

There are some commercial users who would welcome the extra redundancy and performance provided by more satellites operating as a separate infrastructure. There are even some who would pay for this, though for most it would be more of a nice-to-have than an essential. The commercial case would also be strengthened if Galileo arrived as an apolitical service, guaranteed to function regardless of any national agenda. GPS doesn't quite offer this; the US military, who run it, reserve the option to deny or degrade coverage in limited areas at their discretion.

Even so, all this probably doesn't add up to a commercial base sufficient to justify any large private investment in building Galileo. Certainly that's what the European space industry thought.

As a result, the Euro sat nav system is not fully funded at present. The European Commission (EC) in Brussels has advanced a plan to find the missing cash from unspent agricultural subsidies already in the European Union budget. This money would normally revert back to national coffers, but the EC would like to divert it into Galileo. This option is supported by some in the European Parliament.

A fair bit of EC money is already budgeted for Galileo, and if the commissioners are permitted to supply the remaining funds the sat nav system is likely to evolve into a policy instrument under the control of Brussels, just as GPS is for Washington. Jacques Barrot, EC transport chief, has repeatedly refused to say plainly that the EU has no military-strategic ambitions for Galileo, and it would be difficult to believe him if he did.

The northern European governments who supply most of the EU's disposable income - the UK, Holland and Germany - oppose this, saying that Galileo should be rescued with taxpayer cash but that the money should move via the European Space Agency (ESA). The ESA is not part of the EU government; it has a different list of member states and has some transatlantic participation (from Canada). If the ESA paid the piper it would call the tune, and Brussels would not have control of Galileo.

Meanwhile, ordinary UK politicians often struggle to see why anyone needs Galileo at all. Gwyneth Dunwoody, Commons transport chairman, said today:

"What taxpayers in the United Kingdom and other European countries really need and want is better railways and roads, not giant signature projects in the sky... The Commission is poised to spend billions of taxpayers' money on a satellite system without any realistic assessment of its costs and benefits... The government must stop this folly and endeavour to bring the European Commission to its senses."

Dunwoody also said that the plan to divert cash from its agreed purpose broke "all the rules for prudent budgetary discipline". ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
MARS NEEDS WOMEN, claims NASA pseudo 'naut: They eat less
'Some might find this idea offensive' boffin admits
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
No sail: NASA spikes Sunjammer
'Solar sail' demonstrator project binned
America's super-secret X-37B plane returns to Earth after nearly TWO YEARS aloft
674 days in space for US Air Force's mystery orbital vehicle
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
Origins of SEXUAL INTERCOURSE fished out of SCOTTISH LAKE
Fossil find proves it first happened 385 million years ago
Human spacecraft dodge COMET CHUNKS pelting off Mars
Odyssey orbiter yet to report, though - comet's trailing trash poses new threat
You can crunch it all you like, but the answer is NOT always in the data
Hear that, 'data journalists'? Our analytics prof holds forth
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.