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Deutsche Bahn ends wage conflict with train drivers

Germany's year of rail strikes appears to have come to an end. Former Brandenburg state premier Matthias Platzeck has announced that Deutsche Bahn reached an agreement with the train drivers' union GDL.

The agreement, details of which began to trickle out Wednesday morning, appeared to include healthy wage increases for train drivers and a shortening of working times.

These include an immediate 3.5-percent wage hike, effective from July 1, followed by a 1.6-percent hike on May 1 next year. The drivers will also receive a one-off payment of 350 euros ($390).

"We have come to a conclusion with reason and proportion," said Platzeck, who represented Deutsche Bahn in the negotiations facing Thuringian state premier Bodo Ramelow on behalf of the GDL.

"People can buy their holiday tickets now," said Ramelow.

The two politicians took over the negotiations after a year of increasingly boisterous recriminations between Deutsche Bahn and GDL, who went on strike nine separate times, most recently in May.

The strikes hit the state-owned rail operator hard and forced millions of frustrated passengers to change their travel plans. Many switched to Germany's new private long-distance bus services that have already undercut Deutsche Bahn's prices.

The latest round of talks were originally only supposed to last three weeks, but had to be extended twice because of the complexity of the negotiations. Platzeck described the situation at the start of the talks as "extremely tense."

The two sides were reportedly a long way apart at first, and the language had been tough - "not necessarily suited to delicate souls," as Platzeck described it. "If you'd hung a light bulb over the table between the negotiating partners, it would have lit up," he said.

Both sides had had to "leap hurdles" to come to Wednesday's agreement, he said.

bk/uhe (AFP, dpa)

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