This Christmas is unlikely to be quite as happy for Deutsche Bahn. At least if the train drivers' union GDL carries out its threats and goes on strike over the holidays. Then the group is faced with a real mobility bottleneck - and numerous people in the Christmas spirit on empty train tracks. To avoid this scenario, Deutsche Bahn is already working on solutions.
“As with previous strikes by the GDL, the DB has drawn up an emergency timetable with a greatly reduced range of trips,” said a spokeswoman for Deutsche Bahn. In long-distance transport it is less than 20 percent of the regular offer. “Bild am Sonntag” previously reported. GDL boss Claus Weselsky had threatened strikes before the collective bargaining negotiations that began last Thursday and had not ruled out labor disputes over the Christmas period.
In the event of a strike, Deutsche Bahn wants to use trains with more seats that are as long as possible. For example, this is a 376 meter long XXL ICE with 918 seats. This should be used on particularly high-demand connections, such as from Hamburg via Cologne, Frankfurt and Stuttgart to Munich.
According to the information, some cross-border connections will operate using foreign train drivers. The use of buses will not be possible because there are neither enough buses nor drivers to be able to spontaneously and comprehensively replace train capacities in the event of a strike.
Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) has meanwhile warned of strikes during the Christmas period. “Christmas is considered a time of peace – all collective bargaining parties should think about that,” the politician told the newspapers of the Funke media group. People wanted to visit relatives and friends, especially over Christmas. Therefore, he can only "appeal to all collective bargaining parties to be aware of their special responsibility and to design possible measures in such a way that people do not have to suffer as a result." The collective bargaining negotiations between the federally owned Deutsche Bahn and the GdL are scheduled to continue next week.
But what if the negotiations are unsuccessful and the union actually makes good on its threats? Then it probably won't be quite as contemplative at Germany's train stations during the holidays. To stay up to date, it's worth downloading the Deutsche Bahn app or checking the website regularly. Failures and delays are reported there (almost) in real time.
If the train actually doesn't run, there are several alternatives you can fall back on. If you haven't booked yet, you can choose other providers or, as a precaution, plan a day's buffer so that you can sit in front of the Christmas tree in time for the holiday dinner. Other train providers are suitable for this, as are long-distance buses or ride-sharing services.
Anyone who has already booked a Deutsche Bahn train for Christmas can claim their money back in the event of a cancellation or delay of 60 minutes or more and request alternative transport to their destination or take any train that takes them to their destination. If there are no public options, you can also use a taxi in exceptional cases. We have written down in detail here how exactly this works and what rights rail passengers also have.