Rail modernizations civilize Spring Festival travel rush

 

 

 

Photo taken on February 4, 2014 shows the night view of Beijing West Railway Station in Beijing.

Put into operation in 1996,  Beijing West Railway Station is the largest in Asia,  covering an area

of  510,000 square meters.   Photo byWang Jingguang

 

 

 

 

CHONGQING  |   2015-02-20 22:17:15

 

Rail modernizations

civilize Spring Festival travel rush

 

By Ren Ke

 

 

File photo taken on January 3, 2012 shows passengers picking up tickets from

Internet self-help machines at the Beijing Railway Station. A total of 25 Internet

self-help machines have been put into use at Beijing Railway Station and

Beijing West Railway Station for passengers to pick up tickets booked on the

Internet.   Photo by Wang Zhen

 

 

Filing past the armed guards, Mr. Yang was pleasantly surprised to find little overcrowding when he arrived at Beijing West Railway Station for his journey home for the Spring Festival.

Like many millions of Chinese, he was making the traditional homecoming to reunite with family for the most important festive occasion in China. Like most of them, he was to find that recent modernizations of the train network and ticketing system have made the travel rush a much smoother, more civilized experience than the notorious ordeal of days gone by.

China’s transportation authorities have estimated that almost 300 million people — about the population of the United States — will travel by train during the 40 days from February 4 to March 16 this year.

However, the advent of high-speed rail has greatly increased capacity, and modern trains have made the travel experience a lot more comfortable.

Also over the past few years in China, train tickets have been put on sale further in advance, online sales platforms have launched, and real-name ticketing has reduced the amount of scalping. Gone are the days when hopeful travelers would sleep on chaotic station concourses, on the off-chance of getting a ticket from massively oversubscribed services.

And so it was that Mr. Yang, who was too shy to give his full name, prepared to board the G309 from Beijing to southwest China’s Chongqing Municipality on Tuesday of February 17.

The 40-something computer technician from Chongqing told a Xinhua reporter he knows a few tricks for securing precious train tickets. “The closer to the Spring Festival it is, the easier it is to buy tickets.”

After a few minutes, Yang and his fellow travelers began to board. It would be the first time that most of them had made the journey by high-speed rail.

Transportation in mountainous Chongqing and Sichuan Province has always been difficult. In the 1980s, it took over two days to reach Beijing from Chongqing and Chengdu, the provincial capital of Sichuan. The area is one of the biggest sources of migrant labor in China, meaning high pressure during every festival travel rush.

Electricity multiple unit (EMU) trains briefly linked Sichuan and Beijing in 2011. The journey at about 200 km per hour took about 15 hours. But the services were canceled after the notorious railway accident in August 2011 that killed 40 people in east China’s Zhejiang Province.

It was only on Jan. 1 that high-speed came to the area, reducing journey times from Chongqing and Chengdu to Beijing to about 12 hours. The trip by normal train takes about 25 hours.

There are no standing-room-only tickets on high-speed trains, so their interiors are much calmer and less congested. Staff collect waste every two hours. Lavatories are disabled-friendly. There is enough space for passengers to stretch out in their seats. For Huang Jianmei, it is all a far cry from Spring Festival homecomings in the past.

Huang settled in Beijing in 2004. This was the first time that she had returned home to Chongqing with her husband for Spring Festival. The 29-year-old recalled that in her second year in China’s capital, the only ticket she could get was for one of the extra services added by railway authorities during peak demand. These tended to be served by older rolling stock. Their green paint became a symbol of an outdated and slow railway.

That trip took Huang over 40 hours and is an experience she never wants to repeat.

“There were much too many people in the carriage. Some passengers had to board through windows. It would take an hour to walk from one end of the carriage to the other. And forget about using the lavatory! There were passengers inside!” Huang said, leaning against her husband, who was watching a movie on a tablet computer.

“It was never a decent journey in the past. It was like transporting livestock!” said Yan Wenjian, another passenger on G309. It was also the first time that the 35-year-old was getting to go back home with his wife from north China.

His strongest memory of Spring Festival train travel is a 32-hour ordeal in the year 2000. Passengers crammed into every available space: along the corridors, under seats, in lavatories. He set off walking to the lavatory half an hour in advance of needing to go each time. His limbs became numb because there was no room to stretch, he recalled.

What did Mr. Yang think of his journey? He said he missed the camaraderie-in-adversity that developed among passengers on the old-fashioned trips. “This is not like the travel rush. I’m not used to it.”

 

 

 

 

Passengers enter the Chongqing Railway Station in Chongqing Municipality, southwest China,

on February 16, 2015. The Chongqing Railway Station handled 245,000 trips on Monday, three

days ahead of the Spring Festival. Taking place annually ahead of the Spring Festival holiday,

 the travel spree, known as “Chunyun” in Chinese, is considered the world’s largest human

migration,  with hundreds of millions of Chinese people traveling home to reunite with family.  

Photo by Liu Chan

 

Passengers wait to have their tickets checked at the Chongqing Railway Station in Chongqing

Municipality, southwest China, on February 16, 2015.   Photo by Liu Chan

 

Passengers wait to board on trains at the Chongqing Railway Station in Chongqing Municipality,

southwest China, on February 16, 2015.    Photo by Liu Chan

 

Passengers board on a train at the Chongqing Railway Station in Chongqing Municipality,

southwest China, on February 16, 2015.   Photo by Liu Chan

 

 

 

 

 

 

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