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Germany’s passenger and freight services have been paralysed by a nationwide strike by the train drivers’ union, Gewerkschaft Deutscher Lokomotivführer (GDL), over wages offered by rail operator Deutsche Bahn.

The strike comes at a time when the country is witnessing a surge in demand for rail services over the summer holidays after the easing of Covid-related travel restrictions.

Deutsche Bahn spokesperson Achim Stauss was quoted by Reuters as saying that the company is making efforts to keep one in four long-distance trains operating and to have at least a trip between big cities every two hours.

He also requested that commuters postpone unnecessary trips.

This strike, which has brought nearly 700 trains to a standstill, is anticipated to continue until the early hours of 13 August.

GDL union chief Claus Weselsky told broadcaster ZDF that the union will decide next week whether to continue its strike at Deutsche Bahn after wage discussions with the company were unsuccessful.

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By GlobalData

The union has decided to only return for negotiations when the company makes an improved offer.

It is demanding a 3.2% increase in wages, along with a one-time coronavirus allowance of $700 (€600).

The company had offered wage increases in two steps for the upcoming two years, but the union is demanding to receive the raise immediately.

After incurring a loss of $6.69bn (€5.7bn) last year, Deutsche Bahn said that its business has been getting better since April this year, with the expectation to jump back to profit in 2022.

The country faced the last railway strike in December 2018, which was called by the EVG workers union and lasted for four hours.

Prior to this, the European Commission approved a $644.37m (€550m) German support measure aimed at compensating Deutsche Bahn for damages suffered by its subsidiary DB Fernverkehr due to the Covid-19 pandemic.