How will Monday's German transport strike affect travellers in Switzerland?

How will Monday's German transport strike affect travellers in Switzerland?

On Monday, March 27, a large number of workers in Germany will be staging a so-called “warning strike”. The industrial action is expected to impact both long-distance transport and airports in the federal republic. As Germany and Switzerland are interconnected, especially when it comes to Swiss public transport, the disruption from the strike will also be felt in the alpine nation. Here’s what you need to know:

German transport and labour unions to strike on March 27

Ver.di and the Rail and Transport Union (EVG), two of the largest trade unions in Germany, have called for “mass strikes” on Monday, March 27. The industrial action, due to begin at midnight on Sunday and continue until 12pm on March 27, is expected to cause widespread disruption to German railways, airports and ports.

The two unions, which act on behalf of 2,5 million public sector workers and 230.000 Deutsche Bahn (DB) and bus employees, have been demanding increased salaries for workers amid near-record high inflation rates in Germany. "We represent groups of workers who literally run this country and are paid far too badly to do so," ver.di chairperson Frank Werneke told Reuters.

Ver.di have demanded a 10,5 percent wage increase for its workers. EVG has gone even further, demanding a 12 percent raise for the staff it represents - if this sounds like a huge amount, especially given that the public transport strike in Geneva last year was resolved with a 1,2 percent annual rise in salaries, inflation in Germany is more than double that of Switzerland, hovering around 8,7 percent.

How will the German warning strike impact Switzerland?

If no agreement is reached - talks between the unions and transport employers have recently concluded without agreement - ver.di has told Watson that the strike on March 27 will impact a large number of services between Switzerland and Germany. Here’s an overview of what Swiss travellers should expect on the day of the strike.

All German trains to Switzerland will be cancelled

As a result of the strike, Deutsche Bahn has announced that it will have to stop all long-distance rail services on Monday. Even on regional lines, “Mostly no trains will run… According to statements by the union, the first effects of striking employees are already possible on Sunday evening," the company warned Watson.

As a result, all ICE, night train and regional services running between Germany and Switzerland will be cancelled. Zurich, Basel and stations on the border regions will not receive any services from Germany until the strike concludes.

Swiss Federal Railways to replace Deutsche Bahn services

Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) has confirmed that on the day of the strike, it will be replacing Deutsche Bahn in running a number of cross-border routes, but will have to halt these trains at the Swiss border. For example, ICE and EC trains from Munich to Zurich will likely be replaced by regular Intercity services beginning in Bregenz or St. Gallen, while rail services from Zurich to Stuttgart will likely terminate at Schaffhausen.

A spokesperson from SBB, Fabienne Wittwer, said that passengers should avoid travelling to Germany on March 26, 27 and 28, with the company warning that knock-on disruption from the strike and heavy traffic on the roads should be expected. However, she was quick to assure that SBB services between Swiss cities are unaffected by the strike, although travellers should check regularly for updates about their journey.

Most flights between Switzerland and Germany cancelled on March 27

Along with Deutsche Bahn, all German airports except Berlin BER airport will be facing industrial action on March 27. The German Airport Association said that around 380.000 passengers “will not be able to take their flights.”

Frankfurt Airport, a major connecting hub for travellers from Zurich, Basel and Geneva, has cancelled all flights for Monday, while the airport in Munich has cancelled services for Sunday and Monday.

Despite the impending cancellations, Zurich Airport said that the extent of the damage is unclear, as a number of airlines are yet to inform them of any disruption. Speaking to Watson, Zurich Airport spokesperson Jasmin Bodmer-Breu said that cancellations will be communicated to passengers in the coming days.

In the meantime, anyone due to fly from Switzerland to Germany or has a connecting flight through a German airport on March 27 should check with their airline. Once again, while it will prove disruptive, no Swiss airports will be taking part in the strike directly.

Busy roads and delayed deliveries expected in Switzerland

For drivers in Switzerland, authorities said that the public transport strike will make roads and motorways busier in the lead-up, during and immediately after the action, especially in border areas. Roads and Autobahnen in Germany are expected to be operational but busy.

Finally, the Federal Waterways and Shipping Administration told Watson that German lock workers on rivers in Switzerland are also expected to walk out on Monday. This, combined with heavy disruption to freight rail transport in Germany, will mean that some cargo and package deliveries will be delayed.

To find out how the strike is expected to impact services within Germany itself, check out our guide.

Thumb image: / Michael Derrer Fuchs

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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