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German rail strike ends as Bahn, union agree to mediation

Train passengers in Germany can breathe a sigh of relief. Deutsche Bahn and a union of German train drivers have said they have agreed to enter mediation and put an end to the ninth rail strike in 10 months.

Germany's national rail operator, Deutsche Bahn, and the GDL train drivers' union announced the end of the rail strike early Thursday. The walkout had stopped German freight trains since Tuesday and most passenger trains since Wednesday.

"Thousands of customers can breathe easier: the GDL strike is over with immediate effect," Deutsche Bahn said in a statement.

"After nearly a year of this industrial dispute, we've managed to cut through the Gordian knot," said GDL chief Claus Weselsky.

Normal train services were due to resume across Germany from 7 p.m. local time (1700 UTC) Thursday.

Mediation underway next week

The GDL union, which represents some 20,000 train drivers, is demanding a 5-percent pay hike for drivers, a two-hour cut in drivers' working week as well as the right to represent other rail workers such as conductors and restaurant carriage staff.

After months of negotiations, both sides said they agreed to enter mediation led by former Brandenburg Premier Matthias Platzeck, a member of the Social Democrats, and Thuringia Premier Bodo Ramelow of the Left party.

Mediation is scheduled to begin Wednesday and last for three weeks.

This week's rail strike was GDL's ninth since negotiations failed with DB last year, the third in 2015, and the second in just a month. A six-day walkout at the beginning of May is estimated to have cost the German economy almost half a billion euros ($550 million).

GDL promised on Thursday that there would be no more strikes until at least June 15 while the mediation was ongoing.

ksb/sms (dpa, AFP, Reuters)

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