Switzerland-Germany rail travel brought to a standstill by DB strike

Switzerland-Germany rail travel brought to a standstill by DB strike

On the morning of January 10, workers represented by the German Train Drivers’ Union (GDL) began a walkout in protest over salaries and working hours. While the strike is expected to bring massive disruption to Germany over the next week, some public transport services in Switzerland will also be affected.

Deutsche Bahn grinds to a halt because of GDL strike

From 2am on Wednesday, passenger train drivers represented by the GDL began a two-day walkout, affecting almost all services offered by Deutsche Bahn. The strike is due to conclude at 6pm on January 12.

The drivers initiated the strike after discussions between the union and the company broke down. It is the third strike at DB since November and follows a near-unanimous vote among GDL members in favour of indefinite strike action.

Discussions between GDL and Deutsche Bahn break down

In discussions, the union has demanded that 10.000 Deutsche Bahn employees receive a 555 euro salary increase and a 3.000 euro one-off bonus to counter rising living costs in Germany. They are also calling for a reduction in working hours from 38 to 35 hours a week with no cuts to pay. 

The plan, which would cost Deutsche Bahn 96 million euros a year in 2024 and 66 million euros every subsequent year, has been rejected by the company, which has instead offered a gradual 11-percent pay increase over three years and a 2.850-euro inflation bonus, with no mention of reduced hours. Both sides now find themselves at an impasse, which is what has led to the strike action.

How will the Deutsche Bahn strike affect Switzerland?

While most of the disruption will affect routes in Germany, some international rail services in Switzerland will also be affected. Here’s what you need to know:

According to Swiss Federal Railways (SBB), the strikes will lead to the cancellation of most Deutsche Bahn-run local, Intercity, Interregional and ICE services between Germany and Switzerland from January 10 to 12. For those looking to take the train from Switzerland to or through Germany, the advice is to delay your journey until after the strike action has concluded.

Can I modify my journey to avoid the DB strike?

Normal services are set to resume after Friday, but Deutsche Bahn has encouraged travellers to delay their journeys until January 15 or 16 to reduce overcrowding. Anyone with public transport tickets valid during the strike will be able to use the tickets at a later date and on alternative routes to their destination. Seat reservations can be cancelled at no extra cost.

Night trains from Switzerland to be impacted by Deutsche Bahn strike

Night train services in Switzerland will also be affected between January 9 and 11. Routes between Zurich, Basel, German cities and Amsterdam will be impacted by the strike.

SBB to replace DB trains on routes to stations in Switzerland

Luckily, SBB spokesperson Martin Meier told Watson that "on the Swiss section of the route, the majority of the cancelled cross-border connections will be replaced.” In practice, this will mean that all stations in Switzerland should be accessible during the strike. 

German towns along the route between Schaffhausen and Zurich (Jestetten and Lottstetten) will still be accessible by train as the line is served and maintained by SBB. Konstanz will also be served by SBB IC trains during the strike, although all onward connections from the city into Germany will likely be cancelled.

For some passengers, the strike will also likely mean changes to some routes where Deutsche Bahn trains are used. For instance, passengers travelling between Basel and Schaffhausen will not be able to use IRE High Rhine Railway services and must instead travel via Zurich.

Will this be the last strike at Deutsche Bahn in 2024?

With both the GDL and Deutsche Bahn seemingly unable to reach an amicable compromise, and with GDL members voting to carry on strike action "indefinitely", this likely won't be the last we hear of strikes at the company in 2024. For regular updates on disruption within Switzerland, check out the official website.

Thumb image credit: 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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