About 440 million trips are expected to be made by rail during the world’s largest annual human migration – the Spring Festival travel rush – an 8 percent year-on-year increase, according to the national railway operator.
The upcoming 40-day Spring Festival travel rush, or chunyun in Chinese, which kicks off on Jan 10 and ends on Feb 18, will handle an average of 11 million train journeys per day, China State Railway Co said on Wednesday.
There will likely be 32.5 million more train trips than last year thanks to the country’s fast-expanding high-speed rail network, it said, adding that by the end of this year, the total length of China’s railways will exceed 139,000 kilometers, with high-speed railway tracks making up 35,000 km of the total, thus further easing rail transportation pressure.
In a bid to improve people’s travel experiences, the railway authority will mobilize 3,497 high-speed trains during this year’s travel rush, which will handle over 60 percent of passenger trips.
To make the best use of the capacity of trunk rail lines, the company said it will add high-speed train services at night on busy sections such as between Guangzhou, Guangdong province, and Wuhan, Hubei province, and between Shanghai and Zhengzhou, Henan province, over the 40-day period.
Train tickets for the first day of chunyun will go on sale on Thursday, and can be purchased online, by phone 30 days in advance of travel and at railway stations, ticket agencies and ticketing machines 28 days ahead of time, the company said.
Since the Spring Festival travel season begins earlier than usual this year, flows of students and migrant workers are expected to overlap earlier in January. It will be difficult to get a ticket in some regions like Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu and Guangzhou where there are more migrant workers and university students.
The rail company will upgrade its official online train ticket booking system 12306.cn, and increase its ticketing capacity from the current 15 million a day to 20 million as part of efforts to improve chances of getting tickets during the travel rush.
New technologies are also being adopted this year to increase efficiency during the travel rush. In all high-speed train stations nationwide, passengers can swipe ID cards or QR codes instead of printed tickets.
Zhang Xiaodong, a transportation economics professor at Beijing Jiaotong University, said that although the national railway operator has been sparing no efforts to tackle the huge burden on the transportation system, it still cannot meet all people’s travel demands.
“The country, to meet surging travel demand, needs to encourage other means of transportation, especially the civil aviation sector,” Zhang said.