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German public transport paralyzed amid strikes

Xinhua | Updated: 2024-03-02 02:43
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This file photo taken on Feb 2 shows a screen displaying information at a subway platform on the day of a strike called by the German trade union Verdi over a wage dispute, at Alexanderplatz in Berlin, Germany. [Photo/Agencies]

BERLIN -- The week-long strike in the German local public transport reached its climax on Friday with a nationwide action joined by climate activists and social organizations. In the Government District of the capital Berlin, a major protest march took place.

As part of the event, a petition with 150,000 signatures was handed over to high-ranking representatives of the governing parties in Germany, calling for an additional investment of 16 billion euros ($17.3 billion) to expand local public transport.

Germany's transport sector is struggling to meet its emission reduction targets. Although trains are largely climate-friendly, the country's dilapidated rail network prevents the expansion of passenger and freight transport as an alternative to car use.

At the end of last year, a court ruling increased the pressure on the government by confirming that immediate programs must be presented to catch up with the CO2 targets. In addition to transport, the construction sector is also affected.

Given rising passenger numbers and growing staff shortages, public transport employees in Germany are seeking better working conditions and in particular a reduction in working hours.

"Only with an improved bus and rail service can the statutory climate targets for transport be met," said Jens Hilgenberg, a transport expert at Friends of the Earth Germany, a non-governmental organization. "However, tighter intervals and additional lines can only be introduced if the working conditions are right."

Michael Gross, board chair of the Workers' Welfare Association, emphasized the aspect of social participation. "Mobility for all is a promise that only public transport can keep," he said on Friday.

In addition to local transport, air and long-distance train services have also been severely affected by strikes since the beginning of the year. Further walkouts could follow, as the German train drivers' union GDL stopped talks with the national railway company Deutsche Bahn on Thursday. (1 euro = 1.08 U.S. dollar)

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