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German train drivers announce 24-hour strike: Can you get a refund?

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The action is over working hours and pay.

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German train drivers have announced a last-minute strike, starting tonight. 

It will be the fourth strike this year and follows disruption earlier this week due to heavy snowfall in southern Germany.

Passenger services operated by Germany’s main train operator Deutsche Bahn (DB) will be disrupted from 10pm tonight (Thursday) until 10pm tomorrow night (Friday).

DB have warned passengers to expect “massive restrictions and cancellations”.

The strike has been called by the GDL union following the breakdown of talks with DB over pay and working hours.

DB, ICE, IC: Which trains will be disrupted?

Deutsche Bahn operates trains throughout Germany.

Commuter trains in the cities of Berlin and Hamburg will be hit.

DB have said that their “long-distance, regional and S-Bahn services will be subject to delays and cancellations”

They said trains will be running according to a strike timetable which “only ensures a very limited basic service on DB’s long-distance, regional and S-Bahn services.

According to the union, the strike will not only affect services run by Deutsche Bahn.

Other railway companies such as the Transdev Group (including Bayerische Oberlandbahn and NordWestBahn) are affected.

Around one in five ICE and IC long-distance trains were cancelled during the previous GDL strike.

Train dispatchers, who coordinate train services nationwide, have also been called out on the warning strike. However, the GDL is not strongly represented among them.

You can check DB’s timetable here.

What is the advice to passengers?

The advice is essentially don’t take a DB train unless you absolutely have to.

Specifically DB has asked passengers: “Please refrain from unnecessary journeys during the GDL strike and postpone your journey to another time.”

Refunds: What are train passenger’s rights?

If your train is cancelled, you have various options, according to DB:

  • As part of a “special arrangement” you can bring forward your journey and travel earlier today. DB recommends that you start your journey as early as possible so that you arrive at your destination in the early evening, as disruption is expected before the official start of the strike at 10 pm.
  • You can postpone your journey and use your ticket at a later date of your choosing – there is no limit on when your ticket can be used.
  • Seat reservations can be cancelled free of charge.
  • If your train has been cancelled, you can get a full refund with no deductions.

You can find full details from Deutsche Bahn here.

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Why is Germany’s train strike happening and

GDL wants working hours to be reduced to 35 hours a week, from 38 currently, without salaries being cut – which Deutsche Bahn has so far refused.

By refusing to agree to reduce working hours, rail chiefs are “not only ignoring the legitimate needs of their own employees”, said GDL boss Claus Weselsky.

“They are also torpedoing urgently needed measures for successful staff recruitment.”

This “jeopardises the future of the most climate-friendly means of transport – the railway,” he said.

DB’s human resources chief Martin Seiler criticised the planned walkout as “irresponsible and selfish”.

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“Instead of negotiating and facing up to reality, the train drivers’ union is going on strike over demands that cannot be fulfilled.”

GDL is also seeking a raise of €555 per month for employees plus a one-time payment of up to €3,000 to counter inflation. Deutsche Bahn has said it made an offer that amounts to an 11% raise.

Could there be more strikes in Germany over Christmas?

Limited “warning strikes” are a common tactic in German pay negotiations, but GDL may soon expand its action.

The union has already started a ballot of its members on fully fledged strikes, and plans to announce the result on 19 December.

However GDL said yesterday that they will not strike again before 7 January, 2024.

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A dispute between the railway operator and a rival union, the larger and traditionally less aggressive EVG, was settled earlier this year after both sides accepted a proposal by arbitrators.

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