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China gears up for Spring Festival travel peak

Railway stations across China expect to handle a record of 188 million passengers heading home to family for the Lunar New Year holidays. That's up 8 percent year-on-year, the Ministry of Railways (MOR) said here on Thursday.


"With 150 more trains in operation, trains can carry 4.48 million travelers every day, up 180,000 compared with the same period of 2008," MOR spokesman Wang Yongping told Xinhua.


The 40-day travel period, built around the Spring Festival, lasts from Jan. 11 to Feb. 19.


Wang said railways across the country will face a great amount of pressure as the Lunar New Year, which usually arrives in February, falls on Jan. 26.


"Students and employees nationwide are heading for home for an early holiday, while migrant workers are also returning home earlier this year as many manufacturers they work for have cut or ceased production amid weak market demand," said Wang.


"When most people will be moving around at the same time, an earlier-than-usual travel rush is around corner."


Transport safety is MOR's top concern. Railway departments nationwide are examining maintenance and transport facilities to ensure a smooth operation, according to the ministry.


At the same time, MOR released an emergency mechanism on Monday in preparation for possible severe weather such as snow storms and fog.


Hundreds of thousands of passengers were stranded at railway stations in southern China before this year's Spring Festival as blizzards paralyzed transportation.


(Xinhua News Agency December 12, 2008)