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Trains hampered by financial crisis

The economic crisis will make railway passenger flows in Shanghai and other eastern cities difficult to predict and manage during the upcoming Lunar New Year's transport peak, railway officials said yesterday.


"Because of the current economic situation, the 2009 Spring Festival transport peak will lead to new challenges," said Ying Huigang, deputy director of Shanghai Railway Administration, which manages railway transport in Shanghai as well as its neighboring Zhejiang, Jiangsu and Anhui provinces.


"As some factories and companies are losing orders, many migrant workers are leaving to return home for the holiday earlier than usual," Ying said. But the early departure does not mean less pressure on railway services. Officials believe many migrant workers will also leave home after the holiday much earlier than usual in order to find jobs in cities and large towns.


"The destinations in which they choose to hunt for jobs will be much more diversified than before and harder to predict," he said.


Usually, the railway operator increases trains and carriages on the busiest routes for migrant workers during the transport peak to improve capacity on the lines.


To tackle the new challenges, more railway investigators will be sent to the regional rail network to assess which routes are the busiest during the second half of the transport peak, when migrants return to cities.


Nearly 6.92 million passengers, mostly migrant workers and college students, will leave Shanghai's two railway stations during the 40-day transport peak, which starts on January 11. The expected passenger numbers are up 8.1 percent from a year earlier.


In total, 33 million passengers, an increase of 9.1 percent year on year, will be carried during the 40-day period by eastern railway services, which include Shanghai and Zhejiang, Jiangsu and Anhui provinces, said Shanghai Railway Administration.


The railway authority said it would put nearly all its spare trains into service during the transport peak to ensure a maximum daily service capacity of 891,000 seats and berths, 23.7 percent more than a year earlier. The daily passenger flow on the regional railway network will be about 825,000 during the transport peak.


Trains in the region have been running on a new timetable since December 21 in preparation for the service peak.


Shanghai has opened 465 ticketing windows at 180 booths across the city to sell tickets with an extended 10-day advance period.


Train tickets for the first day of the transport peak will start to be sold in Shanghai on Thursday.


Despite all the efforts, many of the trains will still be over-crowded during the transport peak, said railway officials, who warned it will be tough for everyone to get the tickets they want.


"We advise travelers to choose their means of transport wisely and avoid peak travel days if possible," Ying said.


Expanding railway lines is the most effective way to ease transport pressure, according to Ying. New railway projects and renovations to rail lines have been ongoing since 2004 in Shanghai and nearby provinces. By 2020, the investment in the expansion of the railways, involving 120,000 kilometers of new track, will amount to 5 trillion yuan (US$730 billion).


(Shanghai Daily December 30, 2008)