BEIJING – Hundreds of millions of Chinese people began on Monday to return to their hometowns from the cities as part of China’s 40-day holiday period that celebrates the Lunar New Year or the Spring Festival.
Railway stations were flooded with people since early morning as travelers rushed to get back home for the annual festivities to usher in the Year of the Pig that falls on Feb. 5 this year.
An overpowering smell of food floated around the station as travelers tucked into instant noodles, meatballs, rice and chicken, even as others took a quick nap while waiting to board their trains.
With each new call for boarding, long, snaking queues formed outside trains or ticket collection counters.
Security was strict at the train stations, where around 230,000 volunteers in blue helped the travelers to manage what is seen as the world’s largest annual human migration, as most of China’s urban population return home to spend the New Year with their families.
An army of cleaning staff made rounds of the stations to ensure the waiting areas remained clean of discarded wrappers and left-over food.
Two weeks prior to the “Chunyun,” or Spring Movement, China’s railway authorities had announced that it had sold 200 million tickets for the upcoming holiday season.
Authorities in the Guangdong province (southeast) had also introduced ticket-less travel, where people can scan their QR codes to pass through station checkpoints, to stem the rush at stations.
Around 4,800 trains – 3,500 of them high-speed – and 532,000 flights have been scheduled for around the three billion trips expected during and after the festival.