Germany’s long-distance and commuter trains came to a halt Wednesday because of a nationwide strike by railway workers. Vacationers scrambled to plan alternative trips, while children in big cities like Berlin squeezed into buses and trams to make their way to school.
The train company Deutsche Bahn announced that only a quarter of its long-distance trains will operate this Wednesday and Thursday as a result of the two-day strike. Besides urging passengers to avoid unnecessary travel, the company said it would lift coronavirus-related restrictions so that passengers can book every seat.
GDL union members began their strike Tuesday night. According to the union, 95% of its members voted to demand a salary increase.
The union is asking for a 3.2% salary increase and a one-time “coronavirus bonus” of 600 euros ($703).
German train operator Deutsche Bahn has rejected the demands. The company has lost billions since the start of the pandemic and from recent floods that destroyed or damaged numerous railroad tracks.
Eleven of Germany’s 16 states are on summer vacation, so train travel is heavily used. Deutsche Bahn said, however, that customers who have already purchased tickets for the coming days can request a refund.
The company said that during the strike, priority would be given to connections between Berlin and cities in the west, as well as between Hamburg and Frankfurt.
Children in Berlin, where schools reopened Monday, were running late due to halted commuter S-Bahn trains, and traffic was backed up because many workers drove to work to avoid the strike.
The head of the GDL union, Claus Weselsky, told reporters Tuesday the strike would start with all cargo trains at 7 p.m. (1700 GMT) Tuesday and expand to include passengers trains from 2 a.m. (0000 GMT) Wednesday until 2 a.m. Friday