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Germany train strikes: How services in major cities will be impacted during the week-long walkout

Deutsche Bahn ICE trains are parked on the tracks at the DB Fernverkehr plant in Hamburg, Germany Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2024.
Deutsche Bahn ICE trains are parked on the tracks at the DB Fernverkehr plant in Hamburg, Germany Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2024. Copyright Christian Charisius/dpa via AP
Copyright Christian Charisius/dpa via AP
By Ruth WrightAngela Symons with APTN
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From Berlin to Munich, here's how Germany's rail strike will affect passengers this week.

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Train drivers in Germany began an almost week-long strike in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

It is the latest in a series of walkouts over working hours, conditions and pay. Union GDL said it has rejected a pay offer made on Friday by German rail operator Deutsche Bahn (DB).

"With the third and supposedly improved offer, Deutsche Bahn has once again shown that it is undeterred in pursuing its previous course of refusal and confrontation - there is no trace of any desire to reach agreement," the union said in a press release on Monday.

Earlier this month, rail travel was brought to a 'near standstill' in Germany when GDL union members went on strike.

The passenger train strike began at 2am on 24 January and will last until 6am on Monday 29 January.

Why are Germany's rail workers striking?

The GDL union voted overwhelmingly to authorise 'fully-fledged' strikes at state-owned DB. 

The group staged a 24-hour 'warning strike' on 8 December, a common tactic in German wage negotiations, but the disagreement continues to escalate.

Following a three-day walkout earlier this month, the current strike will be the longest to date in the ongoing row.

The central issue is the union’s call for shift workers’ hours to be reduced from 38 to 35 hours per week without a pay reduction, a demand at which employers so far have baulked.

GDL is seeking a raise of €555 per month for employees plus a one-time payment of up to €3,000 to counter inflation. DB said earlier this month that it made an offer that amounts to an 11 per cent raise.

It has also said shift workers can move from a 38 to a 37 hour week from 2026, or receive extra pay if they want to remain on their current hours.

How will the German train strike affect passengers?

Deutsche Bahn says that longer trains will be used for the available journeys to accommodate as many people as possible. However, it said services were not guaranteed and asked passengers to avoid non-essential travel during the strike.

The strike will be nationwide and impacts are expected to be felt across the country.

"The renewed strike will once again have a massive impact on all German rail operations," DB says in a statement about the upcoming strike.

The rail operator says it will run an emergency timetable with a "greatly reduced" range of journeys for long-distance, regional and S-Bahn services. It recommends that passengers check their journey 24 hours in advance and make seat reservations on long-distance services.

If you have a train ticket booked during this time, you can use it for travel at a later date. If your train is cancelled, you will be entitled to a full refund. Read on for your rights as a passenger.

How Germany's biggest cities will be affected during train strikes

Berlin: Massive disruption

Passengers in Berlin and neighbouring Brandenburg need to brace themselves for "massive disruptions to DB's S-Bahn, regional and long-distance traffic" the Berlin S-Bahn announced on X.

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An emergency timetable is running on selected lines, and a bus replacement service will also run during the strike on some routes.

The Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG), which manages the city’s U-Bahn, tram, bus and ferry networks, is not affected by the strike. Passengers should nevertheless be prepared for more packed trains and longer waiting times.

Disruption could continue even after the strike ends on Monday evening, the S-Bahn warns. Service updates can be found on its app and website.

Munich: How to get to the airport during the strike

Munich's S-Bahn will be disrupted by the strike, but all lines will run at least every hour according to S-Bahn München's website.

The S1 line will not go to Munich Airport but the S 8 line will run every 20 minutes between Pasing and the airport.

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MVG subway trains, regional trains operated by Go-Ahead, BRB and alex, and buses will not be affected by the strike.

Cologne faces less disruption than other cities

Even if Cologne’s privately operated National Express trains are not directly affected by the strike, there may be delays and cancellations for the rail operator starting on Wednesday.

During the previous strike, the operator said that DB Netz employees could join the strike call and therefore there may be isolated cases where signal boxes are not manned.

Frankfurt S-Bahn runs an emergency timetable

Many regional and S-Bahn trains are set to be cancelled in the Rhine-Main region but a tentative emergency timetable is in place.

Buses, trams and underground trains, however, should not be affected. Some city transport lines in Frankfurt will be reequipped with additional coaches or larger buses.

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Hamburg expects massive train restrictions

The Hamburg S-Bahn expects massive restrictions, as was the case with the previous GDL strikes in early January, early December and mid-November.

An emergency service is running on the individual S1, S2, S3 and S5 lines so that, in the best case scenario, an S-Bahn train will run every 20 minutes.

What was the impact of Germany's previous rail strikes?

During the last strike in early January, only around 20 per cent of Deutsche Bahn's long-distance trains ran, including many regional and commuter trains in cities like Berlin.

During the 'warning strikes' earlier in December, long-distance, regional and S-Bahn services were subject to delays and cancellations. Other railway companies such as the Transdev Group (including Bayerische Oberlandbahn and NordWestBahn) were also affected.

As Germany's largest employer of train drivers, DB manages not only long-distance passenger trains such as ICE, IC, EC, and Nightjet trains, but also regional trains and S-Bahn lines.

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Where you can find information on train timetables

Customers can find up-to-date information about their train route via the DB Navigator app or the Deutsche Bahn website. It's worth double checking these before leaving home, as additional trains may be cancelled last-minute during the strike.

You can call DB's special travel information hotline on +49 (0)8000-996-633.

Refunds: What are train passenger's rights in Germany?

If your journey is affected, you have various options, according to the Deutsche Bahn website:

  • You can postpone your journey and use your ticket at a later date of your choosing - your ticket is valid for the journey to the original destination, even with a changed route alignment.
  • Seat reservations can be cancelled free of charge.
  • If your train has been cancelled, you can get a full refund with no deductions.

Will there be more train strikes in Germany in 2024?

Unfortunately for travellers, it's likely there will be further strikes this year as negotiations continue.

“What is coming now will be more powerful, longer and harder for customers” than the walkouts so far, GDL's chairman said earlier this month - a threat that is now coming to fruition.

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