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From Beijing, trips home begin early

Travelers wait for trains at Beijing West Railway Station on Thursday. The first special train added to cope with the expected huge number of passengers left from Beijing on Friday. [China Daily] 

Millions of people started setting home on long journeys on Friday from Beijing as the city kicked off its Spring Festival travel season early.


"Beijing launched special railway services for the Spring Festival 10 days earlier than most provinces and cities," Wang Yan, a press officer at Beijing Railways Bureau, told China Daily on Friday.


He said the city did so in a bid to ease pressures on the rail network.


The national peak season starts on Jan 11, the Ministry of Railways said earlier.


"There will be a lot more pressure this year because the gap between the New Year and Spring Festival is very short. As a result, migrant workers, university students and other passengers will head home at the same time," he said.


Xinhua News Agency reported on Friday that 300,000 people left the Chinese capital by train, with 200,000 traveling from Beijing West Railway Station.


Spring Festival is a traditional occasion for family reunions, with millions of migrant workers and university students returning to their hometowns.


In Shanghai, 30,000 people bought train tickets between 8 am and noon, Shanghai Morning Post reported.


Tickets for the next six days from Shanghai to Chengdu, Sichuan province, a major source of migrant workers, were sold out in 20 minutes.


In Guangzhou, passengers can book train tickets from four to 10 days in advance by telephone, Guangzhou Daily reported.


Almost 10 million passengers are expected to pass through Beijing's three major railway stations during the Spring Festival season, an 18 percent rise on last year, Xinhua reported.


The railway authorities in Beijing will open more ticket offices, extend their opening hours and schedule additional trains to cope with the surge in passengers.


But Xu Rui, vice-secretary of Beijing Railway Station's Party committee, said the capital's travel peak had yet to come.


"The travel peak will not come until several days before the Lunar New Year," he said.


Waiting for a train at Beijing Railway Station, Zhang Lianchang, a building worker from Nantong, Jiangsu province, said he and four colleagues, "will not return to Beijing after the Spring Festival because it seems there is no more work for us to do".


Railway stations across China expect to handle a record 188 million passengers during the Spring Festival season, up 8 percent on last year's figure, the Ministry of Railways said last month.


(China Daily January 4, 2009)