Minister interested in rail bail-out offer

A pension investments fund's proposal to invest in the national railway service opens the door for more investors

The nation's largest pension fund, ATP, has offered to invest millions to breathe new life into the country's ageing railway network, daily newspaper Berlingske Tidende reported Tuesday.

The transport minister, Flemming Hansen, was pleased with the initiative, which he believes will bring other investors into the fold.

'ATP may be able to do things better than the public sector, and I'd like to hear more about the proposal,' he said.

The proposal is conditional, however, and requires that the state pay an annual rent or fee. The fund also wants other investors to join the project, which ATP chief executive Lars Rohde believes is too large for them to support alone.

'For the project's scale to be of interest, then we're talking about a very, very large investment,' said Rohde. 'Therefore it would be natural to have several investors in order to spread the risk.'

Hansen stated that the government wouldn't transfer the entire railway system to ATP, but indicated that the popularity of public-private partnerships (PPPs) abroad could also spread to Denmark.

'PPP projects are great for many things. It's a solution you can't refuse.'

The proposal is supported by government ally Danish People's Party and the opposition Socialist People's Party. The largest opposition party, the Social Democrats, are split on the issue.

Klaus Hækkerup, who sits on parliament's Traffic Affairs Committee for the party, was critical of the proposal.

'The state has a surplus of DKK 40 billion, so why do we need extra money from ATP?'

Neither the exact amount of the investment nor the fees have yet been made public, but the figure would amount to billion of kroner.

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