German railway strikes have limited steel impact

The major wave of strikes organised by German train drivers union GDL will impair transports to and from steel mills, although the extent appears to be limited.

Strikes occurred in the last months of 2023 as part of GDL’s wage negotiations with national railway company Deutsche Bahn (DB), which also involves its freight unit DB Cargo. In a note sent by DB Cargo to Kallanish, the company states that “the strikes are primarily directed at industries”. The strikes were resumed for three days from Tuesday at 6pm local time, starting with freight trains, followed by passenger traffic.

According to steel federation WV Stahl, Germany’s mills handle 50% of their transports via rail, “making any strike in freight railways painful for the mills’ logistics”, it says. The volume handled by rail, 62 million tonnes/year, is too large to divert to road transport, WV states. “If [mills’] inventories of raw materials are used up, restrictions on production cannot be avoided,” the federation says.

Thyssenkrupp Steel says it expects limited impairment and notes its main route for raw materials shipments is anyway the Rhine/Ruhr waterway.

ArcelorMittal, too, has played down the situation, stating that the strike would not have an immediate or acute impact on its sites, and that cancelled trainloads will be compensated by other transport, or longer storage. In the east, however, ArcelorMittal Eisenhüttenstadt could be hurt more, as it depends more on rail than on the River Oder. The company told a local newspaper that no transports would leave the works after 6pm on Tuesday.

The railway strike coincides with a strike by German farmers against the government’s abolition of fuel subsidies. To make their point, farmers blocked roads and motorway access with their tractors over recent days, leaving road freight as an unreliable alternative to railway transport.

Christian Koehl Germany