Train passengers across Germany face major disruption due to strike

Train passengers across Germany face major disruption due to strike
Travellers in Hamburg's main station on Monday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Bodo Marks
Long-distance rail and regional services across Germany were heavily impacted Monday after the German Train Driver's Union (GDL) called a strike.

Some members of Germany’s train drivers’ union walked out on Saturday, with cargo trains initially being affected. Early on Monday, the strike action was extended to include passenger rail services. 

The strike on passenger rail services started at 2am on Monday. The strikes on both passenger and cargo services are due to end on Wednesday August 25th at 2am.

As the summer break is still underway in 10 German states, millions of travellers could be affected, as well as commuters. 

“The GDL strike is expected to result in numerous train cancellations on long-distance services operated by Deutsche Bahn,” the rail operator said. 

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Some regional services, including the S-Bahn in Berlin, which is run by Deutsche Bahn (DB), is also heavily disrupted. 

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DB said it was running a substitute timetable, which will see around 25 percent of long-distance trains running nationwide.

In regional and S-Bahn traffic, about 40 percent of trains are expected to run with regional differences.

DB bosses called on people in Germany to avoid travel if they can. 

“Despite the reliable basic service, DB cannot guarantee that all travellers will reach their destination as desired,” Deutsche Bahn said. Those who can should postpone their trip until after the strike, the company added. 

According to DB, eastern German services are more affected than the west due to the GDL having more members in these states. 

That means more trains are likely to run on Western German services. 

However, there will be disruption across the board and you should check the DB website before you try to travel. 

What’s the strike about?

The union is demanding a 1.4-percent pay hike and a bonus of €600 ($700) for 2021, and a further wage rise of 1.8 percent in 2022. Deutsche Bahn had offered to phase in a 3.2-percent wage increase in two steps in 2022 and 2023.

At the weekend DB tried to avert the strike by proposing negotiations on the ‘Coronavirus bonus’ for employees as demanded by the GDL. 

“With a coronavirus bonus we have met one of the union’s key demands. There is no longer any reason to refuse to return to the negotiating table,” DB personnel director Martin Seiler said.

However, the GDL drivers’ union rejected the offer, describing it as a “smokescreen”. 

Head of the union, Claus Weselsky, said Monday that there was no concrete figure mentioned by DB. He said that an improved offer was a prerequisite for further negotiations.

But critics have accused GDL of using the strike to gain greater influence and attract members from larger union EVG – which covers railway workers and public transport employees.

DB spokesman Achim Stauß slammed the union’s rejection on Monday morning. “This shows the GDL is about a political fight and not a solution at the negotiating table,” he said.

He added that GDL bosses were causing damage “without regard for passengers, without regard for the majority of our employees and without regard for the DB company”.

“That is irresponsible,” he said.

It’s expected that long-distance and regional trains will return to normal over the course of Wednesday after the strike ends. 

This is the second wave of strikes in the ongoing wage dispute between Deutsche Bahn and the GDL.

Earlier this month, the union led a walkout after its members voted overwhelmingly in favour in an internal ballot, following the collapse of pay talks with DB.

READ ALSO: German train drivers call strike in escalating wage dispute

On the long-distance rail network, the majority of trains did not run and those which did were much fuller than usual, during the two-day strike which began in the morning of August 11th.


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