But is this radical reform a step too far, or an enlightened move which others will adopt? The Swedish government obviously believes the latter, and sees this as the next logical step in transport reform. The government says the main benefit of the reform will be the ability to manage the land transport infrastructure as one entity and to plan the links between the modes far more effectively. Ideally, planners will be able to make the best choice about whether to invest in either upgrading or building a railway or a road in the same corridor, and how to best serve the land transport connections to ports and airports.
Sweden has already gone further than most other countries, and has stuck closely to the original ideas of the founding father of separation, the late Mr Bengt Furbäck who, as director-general of the former Swedish State Railways, wanted to put road and rail on a level playing field by getting the government to treat road and rail equally. This was achieved in Sweden by setting up both a track authority, Banverket, and a road authority, Vägverket.

On April 1 next year, Banverket and Vägverket will disappear and their planning and management functions will be transferred to a new transport authority called Trafikverket, which will also be responsible for airport and port planning. The maintenance activity of Vägverket has already been hived off, and Banverket's track maintenance division will become a separate operation on January 1 2010.

Several questions spring to mind regarding this new Swedish revolution. Is it really necessary to formally merge all transport planning functions into one entity? Surely this is the job of a transport ministry which should set the policy and make the strategic decisions? In reality, it is often difficult to achieve this as most transport ministries have separate departments for the different modes, each with their own agendas and budgets.

The Swedes believe that there will be benefits from merging the management of the road and rail networks. But it is hard to see what the benefits are. The two modes have virtually nothing in common technically or in terms of traffic control. Merging them could lead to difficulties if senior managers are appointed who do not understand these fundamental differences. Rail transport is all about heavy engineering - forget this at your peril.

If Sweden's bold experiment proves a success, will other countries adopt the new model? Despite the adoption of separation of infrastructure from operation by the European Union in the 1990s, there are still plenty of senior railway managers around who believe in the vertical integration of railways. The former CEO of German Rail (DB), Mr Hartmut Mehdorn, was a strong advocate of a traditional vertically-integrated railway, believing that the world's most successful railways are run this way. Separation also poses problems for the crucial wheel-rail interface.

On the other hand, there are many railway managers and politicians who can see the benefits of separation, most importantly opening up networks to private operators with the objective of increasing rail's market share.

Initially, a lot of new private railfreight operators were attracted to the liberalised European market, but more recently a large number of them have been absorbed by the incumbent national operators such as DB and French National Railways (SNCF), who now dominate the market and compete with one another in many European countries.

Next month will see the next step in opening up the market in Europe to competition, when operators will be allowed to compete with national railways on international passenger services. Italy and Sweden will take this a step further by allowing domestic passenger competition.

The first passenger competitors are waiting in the wings. Veolia wants to compete with SJ in Sweden, Italy's Trenitalia plans to run its own services from Milan and Genoa to Paris, and NTV plans to launch a network of high-speed services in Italy in 2011.

Translating one country's initiative into a continent-wide policy is notoriously difficult to achieve. As we report this month, the European Commission is still having difficulty getting all member states to implement all the provisions in the First Railway Package which was adopted almost 10 years ago.

It is certainly far too early to say whether Sweden's bold move is enlightened or foolhardy; only time will tell. Is there the appetite for further transport reform outside Sweden, when the existing reforms are proving so difficult to implement?