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Rail strikes at Christmas – are the trains at a standstill during the holidays?


Highlights: Rail strikes at Christmas – are the trains at a standstill during the holidays?. Deutsche Bahn wants to use longer trains on busy routes – such as a 376-metre-long ICE train with 918 seats. No buses will be able to be used, as there are neither enough buses nor drivers to replace the trains across the board. The reason for this is renewed collective bargaining between the German Locotive Drivers' Union (GDL) and the German Railways Association (DBA)

Last updated: 29.11.2023, 05:35 a.m.

By: Deborah Baran

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The train drivers' union GDL has announced that it will not go on strike over the Christmas holidays. What sounds like good news for all rail passengers, however, has a crucial catch.

November 27 Update: After a first day of warning strikes, the wage dispute between Deutsche Bahn and GDL remains unresolved. After the second round of talks with Deutsche Bahn, the GDL also declared the wage negotiations on Friday (24 November) to have failed. At the same time, the train drivers' company announces new warning strikes at Deutsche Bahn.

According to GDL boss Claus Weselsky, there are currently no compromises to be found with the employer side. Therefore, he announces that the union will strike rail transport again. Exact dates are not mentioned at first. The planned ballot among GDL members on indefinite strikes is still ongoing. The result is expected at the end of December.

Weselsky had not commented on a possible Christmas truce. He merely stated that the GDL had never gone on strike over the Christmas period. However, he has not yet said exactly what period he means by "Christmas time".

Rail strikes at Christmas – GDL gives all-clear, but one concern remains

November 23 Update: Claus Weselsky, the head of the train drivers' union GDL, has ruled out strikes at Deutsche Bahn over the Christmas holidays. He told the "Leipziger Volkszeitung": "The GDL has never gone on strike over Christmas and will not do so this year either." However, Weselsky did not explicitly say what he meant by "Christmas time." If he only means the holidays themselves, strikes before the Christmas holidays would still be possible – and after all, most people travel to their relatives before the actual holidays.

The GDL has called on its members to vote on indefinite strikes. If more than 75 percent of members vote in favor of the ballot, there could be longer and more frequent strikes. With a first warning strike, the GDL had already brought rail traffic in Germany to a standstill for a short time. These are the demands of the train drivers' union GDL for Deutsche Bahn.

Rail strikes at Christmas – emergency timetable with longer trains

November 13 Update: DB has drawn up an emergency timetable for the announced rail strikes, which will be accompanied by a greatly reduced number of journeys – less than 20 percent of the regular service in long-distance traffic. To this end, Deutsche Bahn wants to use longer trains on busy routes – such as from Hamburg to Munich, via Cologne, Frankfurt and Stuttgart – such as a 376-metre-long ICE train with 918 seats.

Information about train cancellations will be communicated via the website, the DB Navigator and at the ticket office. However, it was announced that no buses will be able to be used, as there are neither enough buses nor drivers to be able to replace the trains across the board

New negotiations between Deutsche Bahn and GDL are just around the corner

November 6 update: As the head of the locomotive drivers' union, Claus Weselsky, told the "Augsburger Allgemeine", he considers strikes to be inevitable shortly before the start of the first round of collective bargaining with Deutsche Bahn. In addition to a reduction in weekly working hours to 35 hours and 555 euros more per month, an inflation bonus of 3,000 euros is also demanded.

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The first round of negotiations is on 9 November. Martin Seiler, a board member at Deutsche Bahn AG, had called for 14 days of Christmas truce. The GDL boss replied that this would depend on the course of the negotiations, but also: "They say that I'm tough as nails, but never that I'm stupid." SÜDWEST24 reported.

When it's that time again and what options are available

First reported on 16 October: In October, the peace obligation still applies, but from November onwards there may be rail strikes again – which may last until the Christmas holidays. The reason for this is renewed collective bargaining between the German Locomotive Drivers' Union (GDL) and Deutsche Bahn, although agreements were only reached in August. This time, however, they do not want to dwell on warning strikes for a long time, but to have a quick vote on indefinite strikes, according to the ADAC.

Why there might be a strike at Christmas

The ADAC further reports that the GDL boss Weselsky does not rule out the Christmas holidays for a labor dispute, although the railway has proposed a "Christmas truce". However, Weselsky rejects this "Christmas truce" because the developments are not yet known and it is not possible to estimate how far the negotiations will have progressed by then.

Whether the trains will roll at Christmas is therefore currently uncertain. In 2023, there have already been long wage disputes - rail traffic was paralyzed twice in the course of warning strikes. In the spring, despite the cancellation of a strike, there were some restrictions.

What sustainable alternatives are available

For those who don't have a car or prefer not to get behind the wheel during the holidays to drive over potentially icy roads – because winter 2023 is forecast to be cold – there are some alternatives to train travel.

  • Long-distance bus (such as Flixbus, Eurolines, IC-Bus)
  • Other train companies (FlixTrain as a cheap alternative on the rails)
  • Carpooling (such as BlaBlaCar,
  • Hired car

For example, if you really don't want to stay at home, you can rent a ticket for the long-distance bus. Or look for carpooling. However, this is more of an alternative for solo travelers. (db)

Source: merkur

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