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Trains in front of Munich Central Station: “Quickly with a billion euros in damage”

Photo: Lennart Preiss/dpa

The train drivers' strike, which will begin in a few hours, is the longest in the history of Deutsche Bahn - and not only has painful consequences for travelers.

The strike called by the GDL union also means severe cuts for the economy across the country.

“A one-day nationwide rail strike costs around 100 million euros a day in economic output,” said Michael Grömling, head of economic development at the employer-related Institute of the German Economy (IW Cologne).

With the now announced strike duration of six days, the costs would no longer increase linearly, but would sometimes multiply.

"We'll quickly reach a billion euros in damage."

Commerzbank chief economist Jörg Krämer assesses the situation similarly.

As a result of the strike, value added in the transport sector is estimated to only fall by 30 million euros per day, which corresponds to just 0.3 percent of the daily gross domestic product.

“Much greater economic damage would occur if factories had to reduce production due to supply problems,” warned Krämer.

In addition, the rail strike is damaging the already tarnished image of Germany as a business location.

Deeper recession due to strike?

According to IW, alternatives such as shipping, which the chemical industry or power plants could rely on, are not currently working smoothly.

“Something is also building up in shipping traffic,” said Grömling.

The background is the attacks by Houthi militias in the Red Sea, which are currently shaking up the supply chains in the sea ports.

In addition, an important Rhine bridge in Leverkusen will be closed until the beginning of February, which will hinder truck traffic.

“The result will be disrupted supply chains and increased uncertainty,” said Grömling.

The German economy is already in recession.

“It’s now threatening to get worse.”

Airlines, car rental companies and bus operators, on the other hand, are recording more bookings because of the strike.

“We are currently observing a significantly increased demand nationwide this week,” said a spokesman for the listed car rental company Sixt, which operates almost 350 stations nationwide.

Lufthansa is also recording "some additional bookings for its domestic German flight connections in the coming days and is using larger aircraft on various routes in order to offer as many guests as possible a travel opportunity," as a company spokesman said.

The company FlixBus, which also has a direct rail competitor with FlixTrain, reported something similar.

"As is usually the case when competitors go on strike, we see a significant increase in demand," said a spokeswoman.

“Demand has more than doubled this time too.” They are considering planning additional buses.

CDU politician: “The entire country is held hostage”

Despite an improved tariff offer, Deutsche Bahn is facing the longest strike in its history.

The train drivers' union GDL announced the fourth round of strikes in the ongoing collective bargaining dispute for Wednesday morning at 2 a.m.

The strike is scheduled to last until Monday at 6 p.m.

Work in freight transport will be stopped from Tuesday evening at 6 p.m.

Unlike the most recent strike, Deutsche Bahn does not want to take legal action against the strike this time.

Because of the current strike, placement portals are now aggressively recruiting people to switch.

“Bye bye Bahnsinn, hello car sharing,” says circular emails from the providerbilliger-mietwagen.de, which provides car sharing offers in addition to rental cars.

Car rental companies are also expecting further increasing interest.

“Experience shows that many customers are still rescheduling,” said Europcar manager Tobias Zisik.

"That means it's entirely possible that there will be cancellations and rental cars will be available again."

In order to prevent some future strikes with such far-reaching consequences, the CDU Bundestag member Gitta Connemann is calling for the law to be tightened.

“In critical infrastructure, an arbitration procedure must first be completed before a strike takes place,” said the chairwoman of the SME and Economic Union on Deutschlandfunk.

This must be enshrined in law in the future.

There must also be a legal obligation for an emergency service and a lead time for the strike.

There have been no negotiations in the rail strike since November 24th; the GDL has lost “moderation and center,” criticized Connemann.

GDL chairman Claus Weselsky is “taking the entire country hostage, so to speak.”

In other EU countries there have long been stricter legal regulations for strikes in critical infrastructure.

»Nobody wants to ban strikes.

In no area.

But when it comes to energy supplies, emergency services, railways or airports, a strike must be the last resort.

CDU leader Friedrich Merz demanded that Chancellor Olaf Scholz intervene in the collective bargaining dispute.

He told the “Rheinische Post”: “The federal government now has an obligation to finally take care of it.

It would be appropriate for the Chancellor to personally try to resolve the conflict. The extent of the economic damage is immense, said the Union parliamentary group leader in the Bundestag.

He criticized the GDL: "This comes very close to a strike excess."

Federal Transport Minister Volker Wissing also said that the collective bargaining conflict was becoming increasingly destructive.

The FDP politician also spoke out against a ban on strikes in critical infrastructure.