The government’s recently released budget proposal includes more than 300 million kroner in cuts to the state train operator DSB.
“DSB regrets the proposal to renegotiate the current contract and cut 300 million kroner,” DSB’s chief financial officer, Jacob Kjær, said in a written statement. “Our ‘Healthy DSB’ plan is already in place and aims to reduce costs by one billion kroner annually by 2015. Any further cuts could affect train schedules.”
Proposals to reduce DSB’s budget first appeared in the 2011 budget proposed by the Venstre-led VKO government. The current government scuttled the cuts when they took over, only to add them back into this year’s budget proposal.
Venstre is delighted that the current government seems to be following in its footsteps.
“We agree with the government’s way of thinking,” Venstre MP Martin Geertsen told Politiken newspaper. “It is an extension of our policy.”
Geertsen said the cuts can be made without effecting service.
“Much more than 300 million kroner can be saved through the more efficient operation of trains in this country,” he said. “There are reports that suggest that DSB is about one billion kroner per year more expensive than similar train operations in Europe.”
Dansk Folkeparti spokesperson Kim Christiansen said that the current government’s call for cuts at DSB is further evidence of its constant blundering in the transportation sector.
“It is yet another pure own goal for the government,” Christiansen told Politiken.
He pointed at the government’s failure to deliver on pre-election promises of lower public transportation costs and a congestion charge around Copenhagen as evidence of its ineffectiveness.
Christiansen said that he is not opposed to cutting costs, but that any savings should be agreed upon during regular contract negotiations with DSB.
Government ally Enhedslisten was shocked by the proposal.
“It is obvious that we had no idea,” Enhedslisten spokesperson Henning Hyllested told Politiken. “It is obviously a deterioration of public transportation.”
Hyllested said the proposal flies in the face of the government’s oft-repeated green goals and promises to strengthen public transport.
He called the proposal "completely hopeless" and said that DSB is already in the process of streamlining.
“Every time DSB saves five million, the government steals it back from them,” said Hyllested.
The irony of the current government proposing cuts that it had previously rejected was not lost on Hyllested.
“Enhedslisten fought to get back money that the previous government had stolen from DSB, and now this government wants to steal it back,” he said.
Hyllested said that Enhedslisten will insist that the cuts to DSB be removed before it agrees with the government on the current budget.
DSB currently receives 3.6 billion kroner annually from the state and has operated at a before tax loss of 125 million kroner for the first six months of 2012.