BEIJING, Jan. 12 -- The largest movement of people in the world started in earnest over the weekend with big groups returning home for Spring Festival, which falls on Jan. 26.
This Chinese Lunar New Year about 2.32 billion trips will be made in 40 days, or 3.5 percent more than in 2008, and put the public transport system to test till Feb. 19, the National Development and Reform Commission said.
A record 188 million people are likely to travel by trains, the main choice for long-distance journeys, the Ministry of Railways said on Saturday. That would be 8 percent more than last year.
About 24.2 million passengers, or 12 percent more than last year, will fly to their destinations, with the rest of the travelers making about 2 billion trips on the road.
The Ministry of Railways expects the number of pre-festival travelers to peak between Jan. 20 and 24, while the Jan. 30-Feb. 4 and Feb. 10-14 periods would see the highest number of trips after the holiday.
The early rush of people returning home this year has surprised the ministry.
The railways carried 4.5 million passengers on Saturday and an estimated 4.7 million yesterday, said Zhang Zhenli, railway official in charge of transport during Spring Festival.
Railway bureaus in major cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou added 319 temporary express trains yesterday to deal with the travel rush.
"Seats have replaced sleepers in the temporary trains so that they can carry more passengers," Wang Yongping, ministry spokesman, said at a press conference on Saturday. That has increased the number of seats in a coach by 40 to 50.
But a lot of people are still finding it difficult to book a train ticket. And 67.8 percent people feel scalpers are mainly to blame for that, Xinhuanet.com cited a survey as having said on Jan. 7.
The ministry has promised to deal strictly with scalpers and fire ticket-selling clerks who help them.
An example of what beefed-up security can do was seen in Guangzhou, where police busted a gang of fake ticket makers on Jan. 7 and seized about 60,000 fake train tickets from them, the Guangzhou Daily reported yesterday.
Wang denied allegations by Alstom Transport, the world's second biggest coach maker, that China was selling Western technology to the West and was gradually shutting down its market.
Wang said China's market has always been open to outside suppliers. "Foreign firms can enter China's market, provided they follow the law and we have already worked in cooperation with many foreign companies," he said.
In a report published in the Financial Times on Jan. 1, Alstom chief executive Philippe Mellier said Chinese firms should not export locomotives and coaches using technology borrowed from Western suppliers. Wang responded that Chinese firms bought the technology from countries such as Germany, France, Japan and Canada to make 200 kph multiple unit trains in 2004.
But later, the technology and design was upgraded indigenously to make trains that could run at 300-350 kph, he said. That makes China the full owner of their intellectual property rights.
"Though China has not got any order for multiple unit trains from overseas customers, we definitely have the right to do so," a ministry official said on condition of anonymity.
"The fact is that Chinese train makers can't cope with the domestic demand for high-speed trains in the first place," he said.
(Source: China Daily)