Stranded commuters wait for trains during a rail workers' strike due to a pay dispute with Deutsche Bahn in Munich, Germany, on December 10 2018. Picture: REUTERS/MARTIN HANGEN
Stranded commuters wait for trains during a rail workers' strike due to a pay dispute with Deutsche Bahn in Munich, Germany, on December 10 2018. Picture: REUTERS/MARTIN HANGEN

Germany was plunged into transport chaos on Monday as train services were halted by a railworkers’ strike over pay, affecting millions of passengers.

Intercity and regional services as well as many urban commuter trains were cancelled throughout Europe’s biggest economy by the four-hour stoppage that started at 5am, Deutsche Bahn said.

Though the walkout ended as planned at 9am, its ripple effects will be felt for the rest of the day, particularly on long-distance lines, Deutsche Bahn warned.

About 1,400 trains, including cargo services, were affected, Deutsche Bahn said, adding that both sides had agreed to return to the negotiation table on Tuesday.

The industrial action came after talks broke down on Saturday between Deutsche Bahn and the EVG railworkers’ union, which is demanding a 7.5% salary rise for 160,000 employees.

“We believe the warning strike was a total success,” said EVG head Torsten Westphal. “The next move is now up to Deutsche Bahn management.”

Deutsche Bahn had earlier described the strike as a “completely unnecessary escalation” in the tortuous negotiations.

Deutsche Bahn has so far offered a pay rise of 5.1% in two phases, with an option for staff to take extra time off instead, and a one-off payment of €500 ($570), DPA national news agency reported.

A Deutsche Bahn spokesperson welcomed the decision to resume talks on Tuesday.

“We never left the negotiating table,” she said. “We have told the union that we are prepared to make another offer.”

Major transport hubs such as Berlin, Frankfurt, Cologne and Munich were among those affected by the walkout.

Deutsche Bahn said that purchased tickets would remain valid until next Sunday or could be refunded, and urged passengers to delay travel where possible.

In the capital Berlin, where additionally the entire public announcement system broke down, frustrated morning commuters were asked to switch from S-Bahn commuter trains operated by Deutsche Bahn to subways, buses or trams.

At Nuremberg station, in the southern state of Bavaria, about 50 rail workers were seen demonstrating in yellow high-visibility vests, similar to the ones donned by antigovernment protesters in France.

It is not unusual, however, for German rail staff to wear hi-visibility jackets, and it was not immediately clear if the demonstrators intended to signal a link with the French street protests.

“One for all and all for one” read the signs held aloft by the demonstrators. — AFP