A German rail union on Sunday warned it could harm the economy with indefinite strikes as last-ditch talks to avert a stoppage got underway.
"We could strike for longer than would be good for Germany," said the deputy leader of the GDL train drivers' union, Claus Weselsky, before talks with state rail company Deutsche Bahn resumed in Frankfurt.
"But we hope that we can still reach a deal," he added.
GLD has vowed that, failing an accord, it would launch an indefinite strike at midnight Sunday (2300 GMT). Deutsche Bahn has asked the labour court in Frankfurt to declare the strike illegal and is expecting a ruling on Monday morning.
The union accuses the Bahn of reneging on a deal reached in January to give it a special statute independent of other unions.
The strike was expected to plunge parts of Germany into transport chaos, notably Berlin and other parts of the east of the country.
The underground, buses and trams in the capital have been at a near standstill since last Wednesday when the BVG, the local public transport company, went on strike.
Deutsche Bahn said it has made contingency plans to limit the fallout on commuter and freight lines and promised that at least half of normal trains should run on Monday even if the strike went ahead.
But the situation appeared critical in eastern Germany, where just one suburban train per hour was expected to run.
Deutsche Bahn and GDL have been involved in a standoff since last year. Drivers staged several strikes before the two sides announced in late January that they had reached an agreement that included an 11 per cent pay rise for the drivers.
But the accord was not finalised, with GDL saying that the railway refused to accord it a separate contract from other rail unions. (AFP)
German rail strike could drag on