Transport chiefs demand progress in navigation project

European transport ministers have imposed a deadline on the consortium bidding to operate the Galileo navigation satellite system, ordering it to resolve the internal management problems that are holding up the programme.

At a European transport council meeting in Brussels last week, German transport minister Wolfgang Tiefensee warned that the Galileo project was descending into crisis because of in-fighting over workshare distribution within the industry consortium.

The ministerial council has told the consortium to resolve its differences by 10 May, adding that it expects to see "substantial progress" on concession negotiations by June this year. Crucially it has also requested the development of "alternative scenarios" for implementing Galileo, which could be considered if the difficulties are not resolved.

Galileo will be a constellation of 30 satellites that will provide, among other services, navigation information for air traffic. The consortium bidding to operate Galileo is made up of eight companies: AENA, Alcatel-Lucent, EADS, Finmeccanica, Hispasat, Inmarsat, TeleOp and Thales.

Both Tiefensee and European transport commissioner Jacques Barrot have become increasingly concerned over progress.

Tiefensee says the delays to the programme are "unacceptable". While conceding that the consortium has made "some moves in the right direction", he adds: "The consortium has yet to resolve elementary issues."

He heavily criticised the consortium last month for failing to establish a Galileo operating company and appoint a chief executive, stating these failures had stalled concession negotiations with the European GNSS Supervisory Authority and were jeopardising implementation of the satellite system.

At the transport council meeting Tiefensee said: "We need a consortium company capable of negotiating and taking decisions so the blockades are not continued. That is why Galileo is still in a crisis."

Source: Flight International