Danish pension funds have been invited to work on financing proposals for traffic infrastructure projects in the country by the Ministry of Transport and Building (Transport- og Bygningsministeriet), including the ambitious Copenhagen harbour tunnel plan.

The minister for transport and building Hans Christian Schmidt met representatives of several Danish pension funds a few months ago, a spokeswoman for the ministry confirmed.

“He has asked pension funds to come up with proposals for financing new infrastructure projects,” she said, adding that the meeting had been an informal one in which Schmidt told the institutional investors they could send propositions to the ministry.

Although no specific projects have been laid on the table, the spokeswoman said it was possible one of the pension funds could be interested in finding a way to invest in the suggested harbour tunnel idea.

So far, none of the pension funds invited has submitted a proposal to the ministry.

The idea of building a motorway ring road that would connect motorways north and south of Copenhagen, involving an undersea tunnel, has been under discussion for more than seven years.

The harbour tunnel (havnetunnelen) proposal – also known as the Eastern Ring Road or Østlig Ringvej proposal – has been seen as a way of relieving inner-city congestion and improving air quality for the city’s inhabitants. 

A 2013 analysis by the ministry estimated the cost of building the underground road system could be DKK15bn (€2bn), and that user tolls could bring in around DKK3.5bn a year.

In a recent interview in the Danish publication Ingeniøren (The Engineer), Schmidt said: “If anyone wants to build a Copenhagen tunnel and says they will pay in exchange for the money earned from drivers going through it, they are very welcome to do that.”

Schmidt said in the interview he had asked the pension funds to submit proposals for road and rail projects, although he acknowledged the harbour tunnel was uppermost in his mind.

The first step is to finance a feasibility study into the building of the tunnel, he said, which is part of the government’s programme.

But this work cannot begin without the involvement of the municipality of the city of Copenhagen, as well as companies developing the harbour island of Refshaleøen and the Nordhavn area (north harbour), he said.

Schmidt stressed that, in contrast to the 18km Femern Tunnel project linking Denmark and Germany, the traffic investments now in question would not be guaranteed by the state.

Private investors would be the ones shouldering the risk in return for receiving income from motorists, rail companies or passengers, he said.