Buses up prices, football fans brawl, trains return

UPDATE: Deutsche Bahn trains are chugging along again after a 50-hour train strike cost the service "tens of millions" and brought travel headaches across the country, leaving millions of passengers struggling for transportation over the weekend as well as at least one mass brawl in its tracks.

Buses up prices, football fans brawl, trains return
Photo: DPA

"Train traffic has returned to being stable," a spokesperson for Deutsche Bahn said on Monday morning.   

Deutsche Bahn estimated the 50-hour labour action cost "tens of millions of euros".  More than 140,000 calls were answered by some 600 workers to the hotline the rail service set up for the weekend. Some train services were still being affected Monday morning as the Train Drivers Union (GDL) stopped the industrial action at 4am.

The national rail service was able to maintain around 30 percent of rail traffic, though GDL leader Claus Weselsky said on Monday that the labour action cancelled 85 percent of train traffic. Train stations were fully staffed, as personnel were giving out vouchers for meals, hotels and taxis to stranded customers.

An information sign declares the strike over. Photo: DPA

The 50-hour strike started on Friday afternoon for freight services and 2am on Saturday for long-distance and regional passenger services on a weekend that coincided with the midterm school holidays in 11 of 16 German states.

In Munich, a train driver apologized for the strikes over the loudspeaker, thanking passengers for their "patience".  She also promised no more strikes in the next seven days, said the Merkur Online news site.

Mudslinging continues

Weselsky stated on Monday it was now up to Deutsche Bahn to prevent further strikes from happening. 

"Bahn management can now decide whether they want to provoke more strike action or if it would like to negotiate with us – that being all train staff that we have as members," he said on WDR5 radio.

On Sunday, the GDL released a statement, saying "no trick is too dirty" when it comes to the Deutsche Bahn attempting to weaken the GDL's bargaining powers.

The GDL wants to also start negotiating on behalf of the approximately 17,000 other train staff, including conductors, catering staff and dispatchers, who are currently represented by the EVG union.

Ulrich Weber, chief human resources officer of the national rail service, said it was the GDL who had to compromise for the two parties to come to an agreement.

"[The GDL] hasn't budged a single millimetre, and instead called for strikes, exerted pressure, angered millions of customers, and injured the company," he told the ARD-Morgenmagazin on Monday.  

"The central issue is not the wage improvements for train drivers, but broadening the scope of the GDL's powers," he added.

Train drivers are demanding a 37 hour work week and a five percent wage hike.

Buses packed

The strike was announced on Friday, making it the second national labour action within a week.

Germany's bus companies also struggled to carry the extra load, but profited from their struggle.

Passengers line up to get on the bus. Photo: DPA

"It was a record-breaking weekend," Bettina Engert, spokesperson for the bus company FlixBus told The Local on Monday. "We had several extra buses on the roads, most of the trips between major cities were booked out and we even had double-deckers on the roads between cities."

She also said that they their app had 10 times more traffic on it than usual, causing the online booking system to crash.

Despite the 100 extra vehicles on the road driving for Mein Fernbus, passengers still found themselves paying the highest rate for the price-based-on-demand tickets, though a spokesperson told The Local that the company stuck to its stated prices.

Frustration-fuelled football fans fight

A fight between Hertha and Schalke fans broke out at the Gelsenkirchen main train station on Sunday as a special train scheduled to carry fans back to Berlin was delayed by an hour.

Police there said 12 officers were injured, of which three ended up requiring treatment in hospital, in a fight involving hundreds of beer bottles and fire crackers.

The Berliner Zeitung speculated the outbreak of violence was partly fueled by the delayed train. 

Police in Berlin in Monday also said that graffiti artists took advantage of the standstill and painted 69 train cars over the weekend. Leipzig and Hamburg also saw an increase in colourful train cars. 

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