China is bracing itself for its annual stampede of holiday travelers as the Spring Festival travel rush begins. Before, during and after this year’s weeklong Spring Festival holiday, marked by China’s Lunar New Year celebration on Jan. 31, an estimated 3.62 billion passenger trips will be made across the country.
Even for a population of 1.3 billion people, the numbers are staggering. Often described as the world’s biggest annual migration of people, this year’s 40-day holiday travel period will see crowds occupying trains, cars and planes to make their way to see loved ones. According to state-run Xinhua News Agency, the numbers are up from last year, with roughly 200 million more trips being made.
According to Lian Xiao’an, spokesman for the Ministry of Transport, most of the trips will be made on the road, with about 3.2 billion trips by car or bus. Meanwhile, airlines will also feel the holiday travel pressure, with about 42 million flights, up 10 percent from last year, the deputy head of the Civil Aviation Administration, Xia Xinghua, said.
Then there are trains, which will be taking around 258 million trips, and have been plagued with crashing websites and ticket scalping in the past. Though China’s railway system has become increasingly far-reaching, the railway’s online ticketing system has been notoriously unable to keep the pace with the high demand of travelers during the season. The problems, it seems, won’t necesarily be fixed this time around either. “There is no timetable for sorting out the problem of getting tickets,” Hu Yadong, president of China Railway Corp., said in a press conference. “Both the government and our company are working hard on this and I believe we can gradually alleviate the problems.”
However, not everyone is dreading the travel rush. The travel season, locally referred to as "chunyun," is the one time a year many migrant workers living in large cities return to their rural homes. For many of these migrant workers, traveling home requires several days on the road. According to the China Daily, in southern Guangdong province, migrant workers traveling on motorbikes during the holiday rush will enjoy free gasoline at Sinopec gas stations. On top of that, the deputy Party chief of Sinopec’s Guangdong branches is also offering motorbike travelers a holiday gift basket filled with amenities like snacks, cake, noodles, water, and a raincoat. According to government statistics, around 400,000 migrant workers are expected to be traveling home on motorbikes this holiday season.
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(Note: Beijing highway photo by Shutterstock. com.)