Bonn/Rhein-Sieg-Kreis Busy streets, empty underground and bus stops: In Bonn and the region, most commuters had prepared themselves for the warning strike in public transport on Tuesday and found alternatives.
The nature of warning strikes in public transport has not changed fundamentally, but the alternatives to getting around have: Commuter Peter Wesendonck, who somehow had managed to bypass all the Verdi announcements about this Tuesday’s strike action, just switched from the (non-departing) bus to his battery-operated bicycle without further ado to get from Friesdorf to Bonn central station. "Never mind. That can happen, you just have to find other ways," he said. Regional trains and suburban trains finally headed for Cologne.
Most passengers were also well informed about the situation at the stations in Bad Godesberg and Beuel and not overly annoyed that Verdi called for a work stoppage despite Corona.
Nextbike noticed more rentals
At the Siegburg train station: emptiness on the platform of the city railway line 66. Outside in front of the station, there were a few passengers who were busy with their mobile phones. Meanwhile, the buses of the Rhein-Sieg-Verkehrsgesellschaft (RSVG) passed the station on schedule and started their journey into the Rhein-Sieg district.
Nextbike, the company responsible for rental bikes in the Bonn city area, announced in the afternoon that they had registered 50 percent more rentals than the day before. The Bonn taxi cooperative had ensured that the fleet of cars was regularly replenished in front of the main station. Strike days have always been pleasant for the drivers.
Apparently most school pupils had also prepared themselves for the strike that morning. Günter Schlag, head of the Hardtberg Gymnasium, observed considerably more pupils than usual coming by bike. Of those who wanted to take the bus, some had of course arrived late.
There was actually supposed to be a project day at the Bertolt-Brecht comprehensive school on this Tuesday. Many teachers had planned an excursion so that they could take the pupils out into the fresh air during these Corona times. However, the project day is to be made up for.
It was not the case that there was no bus to be seen on the streets. As SWB spokeswoman Veronika John explained, 82 percent of the trips were cancelled. The buses that were on the road came either from private bus companies, the RSVG or Regionalverkehr Köln. Incidentally, RVK drivers were also the ones who drove the SWB airport bus to Wahner Heide. The company rents the vehicles.
Slow-moving traffic and traffic jams
Neither RSVG nor RVK went on strike. However, light railways and trams, which also serve the Siegburg ICE station and Cologne, remained entirely in the depot. (Only) On this Wednesday all vehicles will be back on the road according to the normal timetable from the start of operations at 3 a.m.
During the busy periods, the streets of the city and their feeder roads were subject to slow-moving traffic and traffic jams, for example on the B 56 in the right bank of the Rhine. But traffic chaos did not break out. Michael Pieck, press spokesman for the local Chamber of Industry and Commerce, suspects that many companies have responded to the call from the transport companies and - if possible - let their employees work from home. Pieck: "During the lockdown, many of them noticed that their home office worked well. This is a trend-setting way into the future“.
At the start of the action, trade unionists led by Frank Kübler had barricaded the Friesdorf depot so that no buses could leave the depot. The strike bus parked at right angles is one of the rituals in industrial action. Kübler, who has been a bus driver for SWB for three decades, hopes for understanding from passengers. "I feel sorry for them, but a warning strike could no longer be avoided." Currently 550 bus drivers and 180 train drivers work for the SWB. In 2019 and 2020, according to John, 202 new drivers will be employed. A major reason for the expansion of the workforce is the declining quality due to high sickness rates as well as the increased frequency of services, which was financed by the federal support programme Lead City.
Like Kenan Millihuzin of Verdi, Kübler emphasises that the strike serves to enforce uniform collective agreements throughout Germany. The employers' associations had not submitted an offer. For their part, the employers' associations had reacted angrily to the Verdi announcement in pandemic times, accusing the union in advance of endangering passengers. On the day itself, DB was less worried. Spokesman Dirk Pohlmann took stock in the afternoon: "The situation at DB was relaxed, as everywhere else in NRW. Thanks to 'Corona', local trains are currently only up to 75 percent full.
Much congestion in the cities
The warning strike has brought local transport to a standstill in many NRW cities. "Around 12,000 workers are on strike, many depots are closed," said Verdi spokesman Tjark Sauer. In some cities, few overcrowded buses ran according to special timetables. Because many people apparently switched to the car when it rained, the traffic jams were particularly severe in the cities.
Verdi is demanding nationwide uniform regulations for the compensation of overtime and allowances for shift work. At state level, improvements are needed in working time regulations and grouping.
(Original text: Philipp Königs, Maximilian Mühlens, Lisa Inhoffen, Rajkumar Mukherjee and Michael Lehnberg / Translation: Mareike Graepel)