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Transport freeze begins to thaw

As the clock ticks down to Christmas, the winter transport chaos that has gripped Germany began to settle down Wednesday with airlines gradually resuming normal schedules and Deutsche Bahn deploying extra trains.

Transport freeze begins to thaw
Photo: DPA

Travellers desperate to reach their holiday destinations have for days battled problems with planes, trains and automobiles caused by brutal ice and snow.

Improved weather made it possible for Lufthansa to end the special flight schedules that have been in operation since the weekend, spokesman Thomas Jachnow said Wednesday morning.

All planned international flights will take place – though problems with flights to Heathrow, London could still be expected because of that airport’s own severe delays.

Starting Wednesday, national railway Deutsche Bahn will also operate more trains on heavily trafficked routes to compensate for the growing number of holiday travellers opting for the train over driving or flying. The company estimated an extra 50,000 to 100,000 passengers per day are using the rail network.

Lufthansa is still asking travellers to take alternative modes of transport if possible, owing to the massive backlog of passengers waiting to fly. Passengers should also arrive at the airport at least three hours before take-off, Jachnow said.

Frankfurt Airport, which had to be shut down entirely for several hours Tuesday morning, also said it would be back to business as usual on Wednesday. All three runways were operating, said Heinz Fass, spokesman for airport operator Fraport.

Nevertheless, some 68 flights – 49 landings and 19 take-offs – had to be cancelled Wednesday morning because of problems at other European airports. “That has nothing to do with Frankfurt,” Fass said.

On Tuesday, some 600 flights had to be cancelled, leaving thousands of travellers stranded. About 5,000 passengers had to spend Tuesday night in Frankfurt hotels. While there was still a huge backlog, operations were gradually returning to normal.

German Transport Minister Peter Ramsauer meanwhile defended the government’s readiness for snow-caused problems, saying there had been no glaring failures. Ramsauer said he had been careful to ensure the salt supplies were sufficient for de-icing and that motorists adhered to winter tyres laws.

Nevertheless, he said he understood why there was “tremendous anger” among a great mass of travellers who were struggling to reach Christmas destinations.

Through at least December 29, Deutsche Bahn will run additional Intercity trains on important north-south and east-west routes at the expense of less-travelled connections. The extra trains will travel from Cologne and the Ruhr to Berlin, Hamburg to Munich, Hamburg to Basel via the Ruhr Valley and Stuttgart.

Customers can see the new train times online at www.bahn.de.

“We hope these schedule changes will allow us to avoid overfilled trains on main routes while still not leaving passengers stranded on minor routes,“ said DB board member Ulrich Homburg.

Passengers losing their reservations due to the altered schedule can have their tickets refunded at no charge.

DAPD/DPA/The Local/dw/mry

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BERLIN

Blaze-hit section of Berlin’s Grunewald forest to ‘remain shut for years’

The closure in Berlin Grunewald, where a disastrous fire spread earlier this month, is due to exploded munition remnants littering the forest floor.

Blaze-hit section of Berlin’s Grunewald forest to 'remain shut for years'

Two weeks since a devastating fire ravaged part of Berlin’s Grunewald forest, the head of the city’s forests division says the burned out section will have to shut for the next few years.

At 3,000 hectares (about 7,400 acres), Grunewald is the largest green space in Berlin and located on the city’s western edge. The forest – which is nicknamed the ‘green lung’ of Berlin – is a popular area for hiking, biking, and swimming in its lakes.

The forest’s southern half also contains Sprengplatz, an area set up in 1950 to collect and detonate leftover munitions from WWII, particularly those left by allied bombing raids of the then-Nazi capital.

The fire, which broke out at Sprengplatz, scattered detonated many pieces of leftover munitions all over the surrounding forest floor.

READ ALSO: ‘Unprecedented’: How explosions and fires have rocked Berlin’s Grunewald forest

Berlin Forests says the police will be detonating larger explosives in the coming weeks, but that it will take much longer to search for and safely dispose of smaller pieces.

“It’s very time-consuming work and it will take years to collect everything,” Berlin Forests Head Gunnar Heyne told regional broadcaster rbb. “The forest will remain closed for at least that long.”

Heyne is confident though, that the forest itself will recover well quickly, particularly its oak and poplar trees.

While the area around Sprengplatz will remain shut, much of the rest of the forest, including the path to Grunewald’s popular Teufelsee—or “Devil’s Lake,” remain open.

READ ALSO: Firefighters bring Berlin forest fire under control after munitions explosion

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