Houston Community News >> Chinese on Move Again as Lunar New Year Winds Down

2/24/2007-- Millions of Chinese crowded onto trains, buses and airplanes Saturday as the nation's post-Lunar New Year travel rush began, with many people struggling to get tickets. The communications ministry said 56.5 million trips would be taken Saturday as revelers ended week-long family reunions and started to return to work and school. The ministry estimated 48.9 million trips were made on Friday.

Similar numbers were expected to be on the move until Tuesday as China's most important holiday came to an end, with travel numbers up about 14 percent compared to the same period last year, it said.

"With so many people traveling it was impossible to buy a ticket at the railway ticket office," said Yang Lina, a Beijing office worker who arrived in the capital from neighboring Shanxi province.

"My father had to use his contacts in the railway bureau to get me a ticket, but even then I had to pay for the most expensive ticket."

Yang was not alone in using China's famous "guanxi," or "relationships," to buy tickets, and the Beijing News ran a strongly-worded editorial criticizing suspected backdoor dealings between rail bureaus and ticket touts. "What does it mean when you are first in line, but you cannot buy a ticket?" it said.

"Either ticket scalpers are hoarding tickets or people in the ticket office are dealing tickets through their relationship networks."

The number of trips taken during the Lunar New Year period, which this year began on February 18, is expected to reach a record 2.17 billion. The transport crush has worsened each year as China's economy has improved, giving millions more the means to travel.

An estimated 140 million migrant workers have also rushed to get home and then back to work.

The government has added hundreds of extra train trips per day for the 40-day travel season from Feb. 3 to March 14 but even those are struggling to keep up with demand.

The majority of trips this weekend were made by local bus, while most of the passengers were migrant rural workers returning to urban jobs, the ministry said.

According to the Civil Aviation Administration of China, more than 620,000 travelers were taking to the skies on Saturday with 4,800 flights scheduled for the day, Xinhua said.

This compared to 4,000 flights a day under normal conditions, it said.

Beijing's train stations, airport and bus depots were expected to handle 500,000 people per day over the next 10 days, Xinhua said in a separate report.

About 620,000 train passengers arrived in the eastern metropolis of Shanghai on Friday, prompting the local railway bureau to add 566 extra trains over the weekend, it said.

More than 300,000 rail passengers were expected to flow into southern China's booming Guangdong province daily in the coming days with over 150,000 train travelers headed to the provincial capital of Guangzhou each day, it said.

(Contributed by China Post)