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Chinese railways ease holiday journey for special needs passengers

Xinhua | Updated: 2017-01-17 15:22
BEIJING - An elderly woman suffered a heart attack at Beijing South Railway Station after realizing her ID card was missing. She was quickly transferred to a clinic in the station where she was treated by two doctors.

Meanwhile, staff members in the station prepared a temporary ID card for her, and the woman soon safely boarded a train headed home.

Similar cases involving groups such as the elderly and the disabled are reported almost every day during China's annual holiday travel frenzy.

The hectic 40-day travel period surrounding the Chinese lunar new year, or Spring Festival, is known as "chunyun." This year's lunar new year falls on Jan. 28, and the chunyun travel rush stretches from Jan. 13 to Feb. 21.

Chunyun is a major test for railway authorities. Every year, China's railway system transports hundreds of millions of passengers, most of whom are traveling home to meet family and friends.
Statistics show that up to 356 million trips are expected to be made via rail over the 40-day period this year.

Among the most pressing challenges for the nation's railway system is accommodating special groups including the elderly, children, the sick, the disabled and pregnant women.

Journey of love

Before this year's chunyun began, the station in Beijing updated its medical service, which offers free basic examinations and provides first-aid treatment as well as regular medicine, to make trips more convenient for passengers with physical challenges.

These passengers can make a phone reservation to be picked up by a team upon arrival at the station, according to Zhang Runqiu, who leads the station's service desk for passengers with special needs.

Zhang said when a passenger's train is about to depart, the station communicates with the train crew to ensure the passenger receives special care during the trip.
Zhang has witnessed the station's transformation into one of the largest railway stations in Asia and the starting point of the Beijing-Shanghai High-Speed Railway since she started working at Beijing South Railway Station in 1999.

"My position here has given me the opportunity to serve many, many people and to experience China's cultural presence and the warmth of our spring festival," Zhang said.

But, she admits, helping those in need comes with sacrifices.

"My six-year-old daughter often calls me and asks, 'Mom, what time will you be home today?'" she said.

The upgraded services in the station have been welcomed by passengers.

"The service provided by China's railway system has become more and more personalized," a pregnant woman with the surname Wang told Xinhua on Friday as she prepared to travel to eastern China's Shandong Province

Facilities and services to help passengers in need are now commonplace in stations across the nation.

Jiang Liping, a mother of two, was another beneficiary. Shortly after she entered Qingdao station in Shandong with her children on Saturday, the trio were treated by staff to a VIP room reserved for passengers with special needs.

"It did not occur to me that I would be helped upon entering the station and could wait for the train in such a good environment," Jiang said.

Assistance from station employees is especially important for passengers with disabilities.

Tian Hua, a worker in Taiyuan Railway Station in north China's Shanxi Province, said she and her colleagues helped 35 visually impaired students board trains on Thursday.

Support for people in need continues on board the train.

Hou Jin, a railway worker in northern China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, said people who are physically challenged will be identified and special attention will be given to them during the trip.

In addition to railway workers, there are volunteers nationwide who spend their vacations helping people during the travel rush.

Ma Yumeng, a first-year student at Beijing City University and a volunteer at the Beijing South Railway Station, is one of the them.

Ma said she felt rewarded for her work when she received a heartfelt thank you from an elderly man in a wheelchair after she assisted him onto a train.

Ma stands at the service desk from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. every day she is on duty, offering help whenever there is a call.
"It was challenging at first, but now I do not feel tired anymore," she said.
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