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'Delivery service' gets youngsters back home

By Xie Chuanjiao and Hu Qing in Qingdao ( China Daily )

Updated: 2014-01-21

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Qingdao program offers assistance to migrant workers' children on buses

With the Spring Festival travel season officially underway since Jan 16, Qingdao's special guardian bus service to escort children of migrant workers to their hometowns if their parents or relatives cannot accompany them is proving increasingly popular.

As most schools have already started winter vacations, some migrant workers want to send their children in advance.

"Children aged 7 to 14 whose parents are migrant workers can apply for the 'delivery service', and our staff will take care of their children during their journey," said Jiang Shiqun, Party chief of the Qingdao bus station.

The escort service, launched in the summer of 2012, is free, but parents have to pay for the ticket.

In 2013, 180 children availed of the service, up from 84 in 2012.

The Spring Festival service was introduced on Jan 15, and parents are advised to book three days in advance to ensure seating.

Liu Wenjun, a mother of a 9-year-old girl saw the Qingdao service advertised in a newspaper on Jan 13. She arranged for the bus station to select and escort her daughter to their hometown, Pingdu, a county-level city in Qingdao.

"My husband and I are very busy, so we don't have the time to take our daughter back home. We plan to go back on New Year's Eve," Liu said.

Liu said her husband's parents had come to Qingdao on previous occasions to take their daughter home during winter vacations.

"But we don't want to bother them as they are elderly, so we turned to the bus station's service," Liu said.

Liu's family returns home by bus every year and they are satisfied that the escort service will provide a reliable way to get their daughter home. The grandparents will met their granddaughter, Zhu Yanlin, at the station in Pingdu.

Zhu Yanlin, wearing a sign "Little passenger, special care, said: "I am a little nervous. If I can go back to my hometown safely this year, I will definitely not be afraid next time."

Security and safety is a prime consideration. Those sending the child - parents or legal guardians who can prove their status - need to provide detailed information at a special designated window.

In order to guarantee safety, a six-digit password is required. "Only if the receiver's identity information and the password matches the information given by senders can the driver hand over children to the receivers," Jiang added.

Before the bus was about to pull out from the station, the driver, Wang Yunqiang, was told of Zhu Yanlin's situation as well as information regarding those who were to collect her, from his colleagues. He signed his name to a document confirming this and promised the mother he would take good care of the girl.

"I will put the child in the front of coach so that I can easily look after her," said the 41-year-old driver.

The journey is broken by a service stop, and Wang promised to make sure the girl would be looked after during the brief stop.

The service is free of charge and the Qingdao bus station has offered 50 free tickets to children with the help of the Jowin Group Love Fund.

Since the service was launched, the station has accepted 20 orders, and five children have been safely delivered to their destinations.

"The station will offer more free tickets as demand increases," Jiang said.

Currently, the station offers the guardian service for 14 routes within Shandong province, including Jinan, Yantai, Rizhao as well as Qingdao county-level cities. "We are considering expanding this service to more coach lines," Jiang said.

Qingdao is not the only city to run the service. Three bus stations in Wuhan also offer it, and China Eastern Airlines offers a sky guardian service for children aged 5 to 12.

Contact the writers at huqing@chinadaily.com.cn

(China Daily 01/21/2014 page5)