BEIJING – Hundreds of thousands of Chinese people, mostly students and migrant workers, were beginning on Thursday their journeys home to celebrate the Spring Festival holidays.
This 40-day period, which started Thursday and will conclude around 20 days after the Chinese New Year on Feb. 16, is the peak travel season in the country, during which 2.98 billion trips are expected to be made.
Although many wait for the week-long national holiday, from Feb. 16-21, to return home or travel to a tourist destination, thousands of students and migrant workers began their journeys home a couple of weeks early.
For the first time this year, the Year of the Dog, the country’s authorities expect a drop in the number of people traveling by road (of 1.6 percent) and an increase in those traveling by rail (8.8 percent) and by plane (10 percent), due mainly to the development of high-speed trains or “gaotie,” and offers on airplane tickets.
Despite these developments, transport authorities still expect 8 out of 10 people to travel home by road.
The China Railway Corporation announced on Wednesday that temporary trains have been added to transport up to 1.5 million passengers each day, along with high-speed night trains.
Despite the increase, only 390 million trips out of the total 2.98 billion trips expected during the holiday season will be by train, according to Li Wenxin of the China Railway Corporation.
Among those who have opted to travel by rail is Tian Yu, a 41-year old electrician, who told EFE that he will take around 17 hours to get from Beijing to Jilin, his home province along the border with North Korea.
Tian said he takes the train as plane tickets as he cannot afford to buy airplane tickets.
Although most spend the New Year period with family, some use it to travel to tourist destinations or for special events.
Thirty-year-old Li Shasha is one such case, who has decided to get married during the holidays.
Li explains that since his to-be-wife is from the eastern Anhui province, while he is from the northern Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.
He has traveled with 12 family members to Beijing, from where they will proceed to Anhui for the wedding.
His 84-year-old grandmother, who usually celebrates the New Year in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region but has decided this year to accompany her grandson for his marriage, says the train is a very convenient mode of transport as she had watched the service develop rapidly.