German trains on track after dodging huge strike

German rail service has been running smoothly on Monday despite a quick transition from Deutsche Bahn's strike contingency plan to normal service after resolution of a labour dispute over the weekend.

German trains on track after dodging huge strike
Photo: dpa

Train traffic largely seemed to be running smoothly after an impending strike by German train driver union GDL was abandoned late on Sunday.

Germans were expecting transportation chaos on Monday morning because the late resolution of the train drivers labor dispute meant limited rail service would go on as planned.

There were some delays, but more trains were running than national railway operator Deutsche Bahn had planned for strike backup service, a Bahn spokesperson said on Monday.

“The adjustment from backup plan to regular plan doesn’t work with just a mouse click,” said the spokesperson. “But thankfully we’ve avoided chaos.”

There was still limited service in the German states of Hesse, North Rhine-Westphalia, and Baden-Württemberg. The biggest service cutbacks were in North Rhine-Westphalia, where commuters were left waiting for their connections as every second train was cancelled. Plans to increase service throughout the day were underway.

Commuter trains, which are associated with Deutsche Bahn, were running on time in Berlin, Munich, Frankfurt and Hamburg. But public transport workers are still on strike in Berlin, and the loss of the commuter trains, which have been the only option for residents during the strike, would have crippled the city.

GDL and Deutsche Bahn reached a last minute agreement on Sunday evening after two days of talks. The new contract will be retroactively valid from March 1.

Deutsche Bahn and GDL have been involved in a standoff since last year. Drivers staged several limited strikes before the two sides announced in late January that they had reached an agreement that included an 11 percent pay rise for the drivers.

But the accord was never finalized, with GDL saying the railway reneged on a deal reached to give it a special contract independent of other railway unions. Deutsche Bahn wanted to link GDL’s contract with contracts for its other two unions, Transnet and GDBA.

Bahn chief Hartmut Mehdorn said his company had reached consensus with all three unions involved in the dispute. GDL will retain an independent contract but will be required to consult with the other two unions.