Which services are affected during Germany’s 6-day transport strike?

Which services are affected during Germany’s 6-day transport strike?

Members of the German Train Drivers’ Union (GDL) have now begun their longest-ever strike. Which services will be affected during the six-day-long walkout? How can you get a refund? And are there more strikes just around the corner?

German train drivers begin 6-day strike

Following an announcement on Monday, at 2am on January 24 members of the GDL union began a strike expected to last until 6pm on January 29, 2024.

The industrial action marks the fourth time that train drivers have walked out since November 2023, when negotiations with Deutsche Bahn commenced. After the autumn was punctuated by a series of warning strikes and no movement in negotiations, December saw 97 percent of GDL members vote in favour of indefinite strike action

In tandem with the farmers’ protests disrupting roads across Germany, the first prolonged action following the 97 percent mandate brought trains to a standstill between January 9 and 12. The strike beginning on January 24 is the second of these prolonged walkouts.

Though the GDL is the smaller of the two unions at Deutsche Bahn, EVG being the biggest, the fact that a high number of GDL members are train drivers means that the union can greatly disrupt transportation during a strike. During the GDL strike in November, 80 percent of long-distance trains in Germany were cancelled.

What are the GDL members demanding from Deutsche Bahn?

GDL members are demanding three specific things: 555 euros more for employees each month, a 3.000 euro bonus to offset inflation price rises and a reduction in working hours from 38 hours to 35 per week with no pay cut. If they were accepted, these terms would be applied to 10.000 employees and would be in place for 12 months. 

Initially, Deutsche Bahn offered a gradual 11-percent pay increase over three years and a 2.850-euro inflation bonus, with no mention of reduced hours. Continued failure to make an offer which included reduced working hours is cited as one of the reasons so many GDL members voted for indefinite strike action in December. 

Now, Deutsche Bahn has put forward another deal. This includes a “working time choice model” where employees could choose if they wanted to work one hour less per week for the same pay, while employees who continued to work for that hour would get a 2,7 percent pay rise. GDL leader Claus Welesky has already rejected the offer.

What transportation is affected by the GDL strike?

All trains run by Deutsche Bahn, including long-distance ICE, IC, EC, Nightjet, regional and S-Bahn services in all German cities, are affected by the strike. 

In response to the strike, DB has instituted its “emergency timetable” for the next six days. The remaining, limited Deutsche Bahn services will be cancelled or at least severely disrupted, with delayed travel affecting millions across the country. 

Previous strikes have shown that GDL members are highly organised in eastern and southwestern German states, meaning that emergency timetable services will be even thinner in these areas.

Speaking to the dpa on Tuesday evening, a Deutsche Bahn representative said that “around a fifth of long-distance trains are expected to be cancelled nationwide” as well as “massive restrictions on regional services”. 

Which services are running during the German train strike?

In Germany, U-Bahn services, buses and trams are run by local transport associations rather than by Deutsche Bahn. This means that they will not be affected by the strike.

However, all of these modes of transport are expected to be very crowded and vulnerable to delays until the strike ends on January 29.

Travelling and getting refunds during the GDL strike

As with the strike in early January, Deutsche Bahn has advised passengers to delay their journey until after the strike. If you decide to delay your journey your existing ticket will still be valid. Alternatively, you can cancel your journey completely and apply for a refund from Deutsche Bahn.

If you decide that you must travel during the strike period it is a good idea to take a look at the Deutsche Bahn website for updates shortly before beginning your journey - even emergency timetable services can be cancelled at the last minute.

Lastly, as is the case with the regular timetable, if you arrive late to your final destination during the strike you are entitled to compensation. If you are 60 minutes late or more you can get 25 percent of your original ticket cost reimbursed, and if you are 120 minutes late or more you are entitled to a 50 percent reimbursement. You can apply for this reimbursement online here.

Will there be more GDL strikes after this one?

Since the GDL and Deutsche Bahn have failed to reach an agreement, it is almost certain that another strike will be announced in the coming weeks. 

For some context about how long strike action could continue, May 2015 saw GDL members conduct a five-day-long strike, the eighth in that collective bargaining round. In 2015, it was only after the ninth strike, which lasted three days, that an agreement was reached.

Thumb image credit: Jiaye Liu /

Olivia Logan


Olivia Logan



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