German rail hit by new drivers' strike
The start of a new 43-hour walkout by train drivers in Germany on Wednesday left a large proportion of rail traffic across the country cancelled or disrupted, rail operator Deutsche Bahn said.
Two thirds of long-distance trains, between 40 and 85 percent of regional traffic and around half of freight services were cancelled Wednesday, the company said in a statement.
The strike -- the seventh round of industrial action in ten months -- began at 2:00 am (0000 GMT), targeting cities such as Berlin, Potsdam, Halle, Frankfurt and Mannheim, the statement said.
The stoppages are scheduled to last until Thursday evening on passenger services and until Friday morning in freight traffic.
Deutsche Bahn said it has set up special telephone hotlines to handle queries from passengers, who will also be able to change their tickets free of charge or receive money back.
The BDI industry federation accused the drivers' union GDL of "losing all sense of proportion," and suggested the walkouts could cost the German economy "up to 100 million euros per day."
GDL has been locked in a bitter dispute with management for a number of months, primarily on the employees it wants to represent, but also on wages and working hours.
Following a series of walkouts before Christmas, the conflict between unions and management appeared to ease at the beginning of the year. But earlier this week, GDL accused management of not responding to its demands.
Deutsche Bahn, for its part, described the new stoppages as "incomprehensible" and urged GDL to return to the negotiating table.
"We want to reach a solution. We want calm to return to the company," said Deutsche Bahn's personnel chief on public television.
Deutsche Bahn employs a workforce of 300,000, including 196,000 in Germany and transports around 5.5 million passengers in Germany every day.
© 2015 AFP