Since state-owned rail operator DSB took over the operation of the coffee trolleys on the company's trains, they have produced an annual deficit of between 86 and 115 million kroner each year, BT tabloid revealed.
The combined loss since 2004 to operate the trolleys filled with coffee, drinks, sandwiches, magazines and candy have now nearly reached one billion kroner.
The Transport Ministry has released a statement saying that salaries are the major cause of the deficit.
According to Anette Haugaard, the deputy director of DSB, the 475,000 kroner annual salaries paid to the men and women who push the glorified mobile kiosks through the trains are breaking the bank.
“We have streamlined this area in the past few years, but basically it's just not possible to sell kiosk products from small trolleys with a staff that is much more expensive than the staff in a kiosk,” Haugaard told BT.
DSB is considering cutting its losses by closing the carts on all but the longest trips.
DSB is currently more than 17 billion kroner in the red, and political leaders are lining up to take pot shots at a train steward salary that is higher than what many police officers and nurses are paid.
“I am confident that in a few years DSB will show a profit,” Radikale traffic spokesperson Andreas Steenberg told BT. “The carts have shown a 925 million kroner loss in eight years. They look like an obvious place to start.”
Haugaard said the stewards do more than just sell coffee, like checking tickets and providing security.
“Our staff puts in a tremendous effort,” she told TV2 News. “They are not the problem.”
Professor Casper Rose from Copenhagen Business School said it is a major failing by DSB’s leadership to allow the deficit to grow so large.
“I do not believe a private company would have stood by and worked up such a loss,” Rose told BT.
Several have suggested that DSB could outsource the coffee trolleys and let them be operated by a private contractor. DSB has contacted several potential partners, but has yet to find a taker.
"We have not been able to find an external partner who will operate under the current conditions,” Haugaard told Jyllands-Posten newspaper. “We are no worse than many other train companies; nobody is showing a profit, but we believed that our customers and the politicians expected us to have goods to purchase on the trains.”
DSB has engaged in several firing rounds over the past few years and has asked its remaining workers to combine tasks in attempts to reduce its deficit.
Haugaard said that the wages currently paid to the trolley operators was negotiated between DSB and the union Dansk Jernbaneforbund. She said negotiations concerning DSB employee’s wages were ongoing, but she declined to speculate on whether wages would come down.
She said that for the carts to turn a profit, the operators would have to earn a wage similar to the one paid to a worker in a regular kiosk.