Transport disruption as bus driver strike continues in German state of Hesse

Commuters, school pupils and other passengers were hit with cancellations and delays on Wednesday as bus drivers went on strike for the second day in a row.

Transport disruption as bus driver strike continues in German state of Hesse
Lots of passengers wait for buses in Frankfurt on Tuesday during the first day of the strike. Photo: DPA

Drivers in around 25 cities in the central state of Hesse, including Frankfurt, Hanau, Fulda and Offenbach, have been taking part in the action, Verdi negotiator Jochen Koppel said. In Frankfurt, 56 of 64 bus lines were hit by cancellations on Tuesday when the action began.

On Wednesday it was a similar picture, reported German broadcaster Hessenschau.

The dispute between private bus companies in Hesse and Verdi is over pay and conditions. The Rhein-Main-Verkehrsverbund (RMV), which operates the region's public transport network, is not involved in the row. However, it is publishing updates on the strike and the lines affected.

On the RMV website, a statement said the strike would last an “indefinite period”. The union Verdi has also not said when the strike will end.

In Fulda, school buses were also cancelled.

Verdi confirmed on Wednesday morning that buses were at a standstill in many locations, including Gießen and Darmstadt. 

Meanwhile, in Frankfurt, passengers also had to deal with possible cancellations and delays on underground trains and trams due to staff meetings involving transport operator VGF.

There was also expected to be some disruption on the rail network.

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In Hanau, Hesse, an employee puts a sign up on a bus. Photo: DPA

A total of about 3,000 drivers are expected to join the strike over the course of the day. According to the union, about 3,100 drivers had downed their tools in the first day of action on Tuesday. “We had a very strong start,” said a spokeswoman.

Wage increases

Verdi wants to see wage increases as well as more paid breaks and holidays for the 4,400 drivers of private bus companies in the region.

The union wants the basic salary to rise from €13.50 to €16.60 per hour.

However, the collective bargaining conflict seems to be deadlocked.

The regional association of bus and coach operators in Hesse (LHO) called on the union to return to the negotiating table. The LHO had offered to increase the basic wage to €15.60 per hour over the next four years. The fifth round of negotiations last Thursday was unsuccessful.

Managing director of the association, Volker Tuchan, said on Tuesday: “Our offer from Thursday is on the table.”

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Emergency numbers fail in several German states

Callers to the emergency numbers 110 and 112 weren’t able to reach operators Thursday morning in several German states.

The 112 emergency number on an ambulance.
The 112 emergency number on an ambulance. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Boris Roessler

The emergency number 110 for police and 112 for fire crews failed around the country early Thursday morning, with callers unable to reach emergency operators for urgent assistance between about 4:30 am and 5:40 am local time.

The Office for Civil Protection and Disaster Aid is looking into these outages, which were reported in states including Lower Saxony, Baden-Württemberg, and  Brandenburg, and in major cities like Berlin, Cologne, Hamburg, and Frankfurt. Cologne was further affected by cuts to electricity, drinking water, and regular telephone services. Lower Saxony also saw disruptions to the internal phone networks of police and hospitals.

Emergency services are not reporting any more disturbances and people should be able to once again reach 110 and 112 around the country as normal.

Investigators are looking into the problem, but haven’t yet established a cause or any consequences that may have happened due to the outage. Provider Deutsche Telekom says they have ruled out the possibility of an attack by hackers.