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Post-festival rush jams railway stations
By Zhu Zhe (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-02-03 07:04

Fear of the worst cold front of this winter and the intention of avoiding crowds have driven more holiday makers to return to Beijing than railway officials planned.

Passengers walk out of Ningbo Railway Station in Zhejiang Province February 2, 2006. [China Daily]
The rush started on Tuesday, when more than 100,000 passengers arrived in the capital, up 63 per cent from the same period last year. The number climbed to 126,000 on Wednesday. The Beijing Railway Bureau said it now expected the rise to continue.

Most of the passengers who returned early were on short- and middle-distance journeys, the local press quoted bureau officials as saying.

Those returning from family reunions in more distant places will make up a large part of the post-festival travel rush, which railway officials predicted would start tomorrow.

Four of the five passengers interviewed yesterday at Beijing Railway Station were arriving back from Shanghai or nearby Tianjin. "To avoid the coming travel peak, we came back two days ahead of schedule," said Xiao Xianling, 44, who was back from a family trip to Tianjin.

The Beijing Morning Post quoted a railway bureau official as saying: "It's obvious that some Beijingers on travels have moved up their return dates to avoid the crowd."

The weather could be another reason.

"We learnt from the forecast that the city will be hit by a strong cold front today," Xiao said. "We want to be home before the freezing wind arrives."

This morning's low temperature predicted to be minus 10 C, down 5 degrees from yesterday might be the coldest this winter in the capital, the Beijing Meteorological Bureau said. Cold, windy conditions are not expected to end until early next week.

In preparation for the front, the city activated its emergency plan for the heating supply. Officials were planning to raise temperatures of heating pipe water in residents' homes by 1-2 degrees to maintain indoor temperatures above 16 C.

Beijing is not the only beehive of railway activity. Other departments are facing handling post-festival passengers in record numbers.

The Ministry of Railways originally said the two travel peaks would be from February 3 to 7 and from February 14 to 17.

The ministry reported about 3.98 million passengers on trains on Wednesday, up 4.18 per cent from the last Lunar New Year.

"The number will definitely exceed 4 million today," said Gao Lupeng, an official with the ministry's information office.

She said it was estimated that this year's post-festival passenger flow would be heavier and last longer than previous years.

More than 200 seasonal trains were added yesterday to ease the travel crush. Migrant workers on their journeys back to cities have added to the passenger numbers in Sichuan, Hubei and Anhui provinces, the ministry said.

This year's Spring Festival travel rush began on January 14. During the 40-day peak season, the ministry estimated that a record more than 2 billion train trips would be made for family reunions or tourism.

(China Daily 02/03/2006 page1)

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