China's Spring Festival spells largest migration time

China's Spring Festival spells largest migration time

Already, in what is the largest annual migration of people anywhere in the world, some 70,000 passengers are heading home from the Beijing railway station, Xinhuanet reported. China's population, according to current estimates, stands at 1.4 billion.

Chunyun, or China's weeklong Spring Festival holiday, starts on Lunar New Year's Eve - this year on Feb 2, and will last till Feb 6. Often it is the only chance for China's millions of migrant workers to meet their families.

Beijing railway station is always one of the busiest in the country. It was bracing itself for an increased passenger numbers from Wednesday onwards.

To accommodate the increased demand, tickets are sold 24 hours a day and at all of the 419 ticket booths here and at Beijing south station.

Management staff have been transferred to the ticket booths to take on extra shifts. They work 12 hours a day with only a 30-minute lunch break. The long working hours will continue until the end of the Spring Festival.

The extra staffing has helped to speed up ticket purchasing.
"I just got off the train from Lhasa. I've queued for 20 minutes to get a standing ticket for a fast train to Changchun," said one of the passengers.

"I've queued over ten minutes to get a ticket home. The bullet train will cut around ten hours of my journey time," said another passenger.

Nearly 600 extra trains have been put into place, with 53 new express lines opened.
On the main rail arteries, such as Beijing to Harbin, Beijing to Guangzhou and Shanghai to Kunming, freight traffic has been reduced to clear the way for more passenger trains. But it's not just extra services that are helping beat the rush.

According to Professor Ji Jialun of the Jiaotong University, the biggest change this year is that transport capability has been obviously enhanced.

"In the last five years, China has laid down 15,000 kilometres of new rail lines with an increasing number of carriages. Due to China's rapidly expanding network, 480 high speed trains have been put into service, along with 8,500 regular trains. Most trains in service now have considerably lower journey times, so overall capacity has been boosted," said Ji.

According to officials, the icy weather in south China poses a lesser challenge to railway transportation than to road traffic. Railways have made available 500 internal combustion locomotives  to move trapped passengers from areas affected by extreme conditions.

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