Sat, January 10, 2009
China > Mainland

China's rails brace for Spring Festival passenger rush

2009-01-10 01:50:08 GMT2009-01-10 09:50:08 (Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

Passengers enter the Nanjing Railway Station in Nanjing, capital of east China's Jiangsu Province, Jan. 8, 2009. During the Spring Festival travel period this year, known as Chunyun in Chinese, more than 6.19 million person-time is expected to depart from Nanjing, over 2.71 million of whom would depart by train, according to the Chunyun Affairs Office of Nanjing on Jan. 1. (Xinhua/Sun Can)

BEIJING, Jan. 10 (Xinhua) -- As the annual Spring Festival draws near, hundreds of millions of Chinese studying or working away from their hometowns are rushing home for the reunion with their long-separated families.

But the rush means dramatic surges in passenger flows and pain for the country's already-panting rail system.

Can it cope?

Government officials said in a recent teleconference the nation expects 2.32 billion traveler-times during the upcoming 40-day travel peak before, during and after the Spring Festival holiday.

A record 188 million will opt for rails, the main choice for long-distance travel in the country, to take them home. That's 8 percent more than the same period last year.

Railway authorities in major cities such as Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai and Hangzhou have added 319 temporary express passengers trains for the holiday rush.

But some people will find it hard to purchase a train ticket home through normal channels. Workers at ticket booths at railway stations report that a Jan. 13 ticket from Beijing to Shenzhen had already sold out.

Railway stations across the country start selling tickets in advance -- normally 4 days in advance during this holiday season.

It's common to see numerous queues of people crowded at railway stations trying to get a ticket home, with some failing to get what they want.

Liu Hongmei, who had graduated from college last year and stayed in Beijing for work, said in a telephone interview that she might have to buy a ticket from scalpers, people who buy large quantities of tickets from train stations and resell it for higher rates to passengers.

For many Chinese, including tens of millions of migrant workers who are working in big cities without decent wages, flying by plane could be too costly.

So they join the rail woes year after year.

Wang Yongping, spokesman with the Ministry of Railways, told Xinhua in an interview Friday that the country is gearing up for the festival challenge.

He said the ministry takes all possible measures every year to optimize rail transport to appease the passenger demand.

Measures for this year's Spring Festival travel rush include:

-- plans to run 1413.5 regular round-trips and 319 temporary trains, 142 and 8 more than last year, respectively;

-- some sleeper train compartments would be restructured as seats to allow in more passengers;

-- rail system across the country would continue working with universities and institutes of higher learning to ensure student tickets;

-- railway stations would increase the number of ticket booths and set up special booths for migrants and students;

-- police would enact strict clamp down on ticket scalping and counterfeiting and selling of fake tickets;

-- ticket-selling staff were requested not to offer help to scalpers.

Meanwhile, Wang Yongping stated that the Ministry of Railways had laid out a plan to deal with severe weather conditions on the central government's Website.

Railway departments had also worked out measures in handling emergencies.

BEIJING, Jan. 8 (Xinhua) -- China expects 2.32 billion traveler-times during the upcoming 40-day travel peak as people flock home for the traditional Spring Festival holiday, government authorities said Thursday.

That represents an 3.5-percent growth from the same period of last year, according to officials at a teleconference held here Thursday by eight central government departments.

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