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230 Mln Expected to Go Home by Train

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The volume of China's railway passengers during the coming Spring Festival peak period is expected to hit a new high of 230 million, an increase of 12.5 percent over last year's figures, officials said on Saturday morning.

Wang Zhiguo, vice-minister of railways, said at a press conference that 293 more trains will be added on the country's rail tracks every day to help take 25.54 million more travelers back home during the period, making the number of trains in service at the average of 2,265.5 per day.

This year, the Lunar New Year's Day will come 11 days earlier than last year, causing an overlap of passenger flow made up of students, migrant workers and travelers going home that may create congestion for the country's rail routes.

"The biggest change for this year's Spring Festival holiday transportation is that the transport capability has been obviously enhanced," Wang observed, saying that in the last five years, China has laid down 15,000 kilometers of new rail lines with an increasing number of carriages. According to Wang, due to China's rapidly expanding railway network, 480 high-speed trains have been put into use, along with 8,540 regular counterparts.

And some 290 railway stations have been erected within the country's borders.

"However, there is still a great demand for passenger transportation during the holiday travel peak period," Wang said, adding that the ministry has taken several measures to "send passengers back home safe and sound".

On the railway's main arteries, such as Beijing-Harbin, Beijing-Guangzhou and Shanghai-Kunming, freight trains will be reduced to leave the tracks open for more passenger trains.

Because of the extreme weather, the minister also arranged 500 internal combustion locomotives that will be available to move trapped passengers.

This year, the ministry also made ticket sales more convenient for passengers.

And two more railway bureaus, Shenyang and Wuhan, have opened ticket-booking service by phone to the public, as six other pilot bureaus did last year.

The service could allow 55,000 people to make a reservation via phone at the same time, saving time and effort waiting in line at ticket windows.

Wang pledged that the shortage of Spring Festival transport tickets will be completely solved within five years, as more trains will be put on the country's fast expanding railway network.

(China Daily January 17, 2011)