Minister fast tracks railway privatisation

The timetable for the impending sale of the national railway service should be sped up, according to the transport minister

The national railway, DSB, should be put on the block within two years, according to the minister of transport, Flemming Hansen.

DSB is already slated for privatisation by 2010, but the minister is interested in speeding up the process.

'I don't think this should take too long,' Hansen told daily newspaper Berlingske Tidende. 'Within two years we should be far enough along so that we can say that 25 percent has been sold.'

Hansen would draw on the positive lessons learned from the government's sell-off of 25 percent of the postal service to British private equity fund CVC last year.

Renovation of the railway network and an abnormally warm July have caused headaches for DSB and its customers. Hansen saw the privatisation as a way to smooth problems with national traffic and open new routes abroad.

Opposition MPs warned that privatisation was not a silver bullet that would eliminate service problems. Nevertheless, they backed the traffic minister's accelerated privatisation as a way to improve DSB's competitiveness.

'Otherwise, we risk that DSB will just waste away,' said Poul Andersen, the Social Democratic transport issues spokesperson. 'The organisation should be allowed to move on. But only on the condition that the government retains a 75 percent share, allowing it to maintain its influence.'

One possible suitor for the DSB stake is British transport company Arriva, which in 2003 won the bid to operate rail service in western Denmark over DSB.

'We have a clear strategy to expand operations in Scandinavia, and we can contribute quite a bit,' said Jan Wildau, Arriva Scandinavia's director of communications.

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