Cancellations and severe delays were likely to hit rail routes across Germany between 6am and 8am on Monday after workers' union EVG announced over the weekend they would be leaving their posts at this time to push for more pay.
The strike marks an escalation in deadlocked negotiations between union members and national rail operators Deutsche Bahn, a spat which for the first time has spilled over to affect passengers.
“We're starting slowly, so as not to disrupt travellers too much,” EVG spokesman Uwe Reitz said over the weekend, but would not indicate any routes or areas likely to be badly affected so that travellers could opt to stay clear of them.
EVG are demanding a 6.5 percent wage hike from national rail operator Deutsche Bahn for all 130,000 employees. In return, Deutsche Bahn suggested staggered wage rises of 2.4 percent and a further 2 percent in the second year, as well as a one off payment of €400 - an offer EVG has rejected.
Now the union is demonstrating its disruptive power and said it planned to abandon signal boxes and workshops for two hours at peak time, bringing many of the network's trains to a forced standstill.
A new round of negotiations had been due to begin on Monday, said a spokeswoman for Deutsche Bahn. It was “absurd” to strike now, before negotiations over the Bahn's “sensible” offer had even begun, she added.