Britain must try to prevent a European Union satellite navigation system from going ahead until its costs, risks and benefits have been thoroughly assessed, lawmakers said on Monday.

British parliament's transport committee said it had serious concerns about the merits of the 3.4 billion euro ($5 billion) project and the way in which the European Commission planned to fund it.

The system aims to compete with the U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS). It has faced a 2.4 billion euro hole in funding because private companies have been reluctant to foot the bill.

The European Commission has proposed plugging the hole mainly with unused agriculture funds and some from the EU's scientific research project. Unused funds earmarked for EU projects are usually returned to national coffers.

The government must stop this folly and endeavor to bring the European Commission to its senses, said Gwyneth Dunwoody, Labour chairman of the transport committee.

The Commission is poised to spend billions of taxpayers' money on a satellite system without any realistic assessment of its costs and benefits and to break all the rules for prudent budgetary discipline in order to fund it.

The committee's report noted only one test satellite had been launched for the Galileo programme, which should have 30 satellites if completed.

The project is five years behind schedule, it said.

Like the GPS, the Galileo system would exchange radio signals with devices on the ground, allowing users to pinpoint their location.

Some analysts have questioned the project's viability because the GPS, developed by the U.S. military, operates free of charge. They also say there will be delays and cost overruns, with taxpayers certain to be asked to foot the bill.

For many politicians, Galileo is a question of pride and technological independence.

Advocates say it would offer greater accuracy and reliability, as well as create thousands of jobs and prove the EU is not falling behind China and Russia, which are developing similar systems.

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, providing services that we already have from GPS and other systems, Dunwoody said.

We have asked the government to ensure that the UK parliament has the opportunity to scrutinize and debate this project properly ... before a decision is made at European level.