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Danish rail company says Sweden border checks will cost 1 million DKK a day

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Border checks on train passengers aimed at curbing the number of asylum seekers entering Sweden from Denmark will cost Denmark’s rail operator nearly 1 million Danish crowns (99,370 pounds) a day, the state-owned company said on Tuesday.

Police organize the line of refugees at on the stairway leading up from the trains arriving from Denmark at the Hyllie train station outside Malmo, Sweden, November 19, 2015. REUTERS/Johan Nilsson/TT News Agency

Travellers have been able to cross borders between the two Nordic countries without passports since the late 1950s. But starting Jan. 4, all Sweden-bound trains will be stopped for mandatory identification checks.

The identification checks will cost an estimated nine million crowns a month, DSB, the rail company, said in a statement. An expected decline in passenger numbers will probably cost another 20 million crowns a month.

“Combined costs for identification control and lost revenue are estimated to be around 1 million crowns a day in the first month,” a spokesman told Reuters. If the checks remain in place for more than a month, “it might result in a fee on tickets to Sweden to cover extraordinary costs”.

The new border checks were instigated by Sweden, which has tightened border controls and asylum rules to try to slow an influx of migrants from war-torn Syria and elsewhere that is expected to reach 190,000 this year. The country says its asylum system cannot cope and that other European Union states must take in more refugees.

In Norway, the newly appointed immigration minister announced on Tuesday 40 proposals to tighten asylum rules. They include reviewing whether unaccompanied minors seeking asylum are still entitled to protection when they turn 18.

Norway, which has a population of 5.2 million, is not a member of the European Union but is a member of the passport-free Schengen zone.

“We want to have one of the toughest asylum policies in Europe,” Sylvi Listhaug of the populist Progress Party told a news conference.

Norway’s centre-right Conservatives and the anti-immigration Progress Party have formed a minority government, so they need the support of other parties in parliament to pass the measures. Some opposition parties have already criticised the measures as going too far.

Norway imposed stricter border controls on Nov. 24, after neighbouring Sweden imposed tougher rules, and renewed them on Dec. 18. They expire on Jan. 15, but Oslo has already warned that it may renew them for up to three months from that date.

In Denmark, DSB said that on Monday it will start emptying all trains at Copenhagen Airport, the last stop before a bridge to Sweden. Passengers will have to enter the terminal and show identification before re-boarding the train.

It has set up 34 staffed slots at the airport station to check papers.

The checks will extend travel time by up to 45 minutes, DSB said - longer than the 34-minute train journey between Sweden and Denmark. Around 16,000 people make the trip every day.

Reporting by Ole Mikkelsen in Copenhagen, Henrik Stolen and Gwladys Fouche in Oslo,; Editing by Catherine Evans, Larry King