Berlin - Commuters and rail passengers have two tough days ahead of them. A 48-hour strike by Germany's train drivers union - Gewerkschaft Deutscher Lokomotivführer - over wages has largely paralysed Deutsche Bahn (DB) passenger service. 

"The first effects of the strike are being felt," a DB spokesperson said early on Wednesday. 

Trains were cancelled across Germany. Only one-in-four long-distance trains is running. DB rail freight has been interrupted since Tuesday evening.

The Berlin S-Bahn, a DB subsidiary, as well as DB rail links between Berlin and Brandenburg are affected. Many routes have extremely limited service. Some have been cancelled completely- including the FEX airport express.

The details:

S-Bahn

  • Lines running every 20 minutes: S1, S2, S25, S3, S46, S5, S7, S85 and S9
  • Lines running every 40 minutes: S7 and S8
  • Out of service: S26, the Ringbahn in both directions (S41 and S42), S45, S47 and die S75

Regional trains

  • Lines running with replacement rail and bus service: RE1, RE3, RE5, RE6, RE7, RE10, RE15, RE18, RB11 and RB43
  • No replacement service: FEX (airport express), RB10/14, RB13, RB20, RB21, RB22, RB23, RB24, RB31, RB49, RB55 and RE/RB66

Union waiting for better offer 

GDL called on DB to bring a new offer to the negotiating table. "The offer is unacceptable," said union boss Claus Weselsky on breakfast show ZDF Morgenmagazin. 

DB says it's willing to meet the union's demand for a 3.2 per cent wage increase - equivalent to a similar raise for public sector workers - but in two stages, Martin Seiler, DB's head of human resources, said. Wages would be bumped up 1.5 per cent on 1 January and then 1.7 per cent on 1 March 2023 with the agreement lasting until 30 June 2024, or 40 months.

The union wants a new contract negotiated after 28 months otherwise, Weselsky has said, the raise likely won't keep pace with inflation.

"This is not negotiable for us. We have made that clear," said Weselsky. Because there are always two sides to a dispute, he said, the DB bears the responsibility "that the dispute is now also taking place on the backs of passengers".

GDL says the strike will last through 2am on Friday morning. The GDL leader said the strike was timed to end before the weekend, because an uptick in travel is expected due to the end of the school summer holidays. He said the union would decide on a possible continuation next week.

No non-essential journeys

DB asked travellers to postpone non-urgent trips. The company said it had made "special goodwill arrangements" due to the strike. Tickets already booked for affected routes will remain valid until 20 August. People who booked Sparpreis and Super Sparpreis deals will be able to use other trains than those booked. Tickets can also be refunded at no cost.

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