Berlin in chaos with transit strike and power outages

Berlin's public transport system has come to a standstill because of a strike by mass transit workers. The result is a “chaotic situation,” according to a passenger organization IGEB.

Commuters patience was stretched even further than unions intended as power outages have caused many traffic lights to fail, adding to the disarray on the capital’s streets.

“We expect a chaotic situation, because employees and students were given no time to prepare for the strike,” Christfried Tschepe, director of IGEB, told the Berliner Zeitung.

Between 3,500 and 5000 employees of BVG, the Berlin mass transit company, went on strike at midnight on Thursday night, leaving 2.7 million passengers with no way to get to work or school. Because the call centres and all information services are on strike, the only way for passengers to get information is through media. BVG’s website is overloaded, as passengers look for updates.

“It is very infuriating and we can understand our customers’ anger,” Petra Reetz, spokesperson for BVG, told Berliner Morgenpost on Thursday. The strike is intended to last until 3pm Saturday.

The S-bahn system, the system for over ground trains, will run longer trains on Friday, as well as schedule extra trains on certain routes.

According to the police, traffic on the city motorways is normal. Over 250,000 students are expected to be late to school because of the strike.

Transport workers are striking because they want salary raises of 8 to 12 percent, instead of the 6 percent raise until the end of 2010 and a one time payment of €100 the they were offered.