BERLIN (AP) _ Passenger rail service resumed in eastern Germany today, but striking rail employees kept nearly 500 freight trains waiting at the former nation's borders, officials said.

Bargainers for the Union of German Rail Workers and the rail system, the Reichsbahn, resumed talks today aimed at ending the walkout.

The union promised late Tuesday to resume passenger service, but continued to halt freight service. Reichsbahn spokesman Joachim Miethling said up to 500 freight trains were standing idle at the former East Germany's borders.

But passenger service was only running slightly behind schedule, he said.

The union's decision to resume at least partial service came in the wake of growing public resentment of the strike. Most eastern Germans do not have cars and must rely on rail transport to visit other cities.

About 260,000 Reichsbahn employees went on strike Monday after negotiations with the rail system broke down.

Strike leaders fear up to 68,000 workers in the five new eastern states will be laid off as the Reichsbahn undergoes capitalist restructuring. The strikers are demanding protection against widespread layoffs and pay increases.

The strike was the first major labor dispute since the two Germanys unified Oct. 3, and some experts fear it could begin widespread labor unrest.

The former Communist country, making a swift transition to the free market, is expected to experience nearly 50 percent unemployment next year as former state-run enterprises collapse in the face of Western competition.