Visible only by moonlight and the odd stray light along the way, the street was mostly empty – little traffic and just an occasional pedestrian. The roar of a motorcycle and cheerful music from a portable speaker suddenly broke the silence.
Pan Chunguo, 27-year-old migrant worker, left his dormitory at an electronic factory in Zhaoqing, Guangdong province, at 6 am one day last week and hit the road. Without companions to join him, he felt lonely going by motorcycle back home for Spring Festival this year.
“It’s very dangerous heading out on the road on my own, especially during the travel rush, when people are all heading home in their trucks and cars,” he said the day after the trip. “There’s more risk of getting into an accident-big trouble if that happens,” he said.
In 2015, Pan chose to make the nearly 12-hour trip to Wuzhou, Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, with an eight-member fleet of motorcycles, since a train ticket was almost impossible for him to get at the time. This year, it’s just Pan and his speaker.
Co-workers who in the past would ride back with him have turned to a faster, safer means of transportation – the high-speed train.
Clad in heavy, protective clothing and leather knee pads, and carrying gifts for parents and children, fleets of homebound motorcyclists like Pan were once a common scene in southern China among the huge throngs of people rushing home for the Spring Festival, China’s most important holiday for family reunions.
However, such risky trips are gradually becoming a thing of the past, thanks to the country’s quickly expanding, high-speed network of eight east-west and eight north-south rail lines, especially in Guangdong and Guangxi, where many migrant workers come from.
By the end of last year, China had more than 139,000 km of rail lines, with 35,000 km for high-speed rail alone, further easing transportation.
Rail authorities in Guangdong and Guangxi have taken many measures to enhance transportation capability, including making full use of new rail tracks and putting more additional trains into operation.
Rail authorities in Guangxi will mobilize per day an additional 39 trains in the daytime and nine at night to meet the surging Spring Festival travel demand. In Guangdong, rail authorities will expand rail service to handle an expected 67 million passenger trips, an increase of 8 percent over the previous year.
According to an official in the Guangxi Department of Transport, the number of motorcycles heading to the Wuzhou from Guangdong during the Spring Festival travel rush plummeted from 400,000 in 2013 to 48,000 last year. The number is expected to drop by another 8,000 more during the travel rush this year.
Li Xiaojun, a volunteer at a rest station along the way that provides riders with a quick meal, hot tea, and medical and motorcycle repair service, has been more than happy to see fewer motorcycle fleets.
“The rest stop used to be filled with groups of motorcyclists at this time of year, but we’ve come across many loners in recent years,” he said, “Three years ago, it wouldn’t have been unusual to have gone through dozens of bottles of hot water by lunchtime, but now there’s still much left after a whole day.”
This was Pan’s sixth journey home by motorcycle – a freezing, tedious and dangerous trip he hoped would be his last.
“These rides are brutal. After a while, I’m exhausted and my whole body is freezing and tired,” Pan said, “I will definitely take a high-speed train next year.”
（From China Daily）