China Daily/Asia News Network
Passengers queue up to board trains at Hangzhou East Railway Station in Hangzhou, in China's eastern Zhejiang province on February 1, 2018, as travelers begin their annual trek home for the Lunar New Year holidays. (AFP/File)
China kicked off the world's largest annual human migration yesterday, with the start of the 40-day Spring Festival travel rush also known as chunyun.
During this period, hundreds of millions of Chinese cram onto trains, buses, planes and boats to return to their hometowns for Chinese New Year, or use the week-long holiday for travel.
About 2.98 billion trips are expected to be made between Feb 1 and March 12.
Road trips via long-distance buses remain the most common mode of transport for most Chinese, with eight in 10 travellers taking the coach home this year.
This year, however, such trips are expected to dip for the first time as the country's high-speed rail network continues to expand and more people choose to drive home, authorities said.
The decline of bus trips is expected to occur owing to the rapid development of high-speed rail and airline service.
More people have changed to trains and planes to get home, according to a statement from the Ministry of Transport.
"The extension of China's expressways and the continued increase use of private cars has greatly relieved public road transportation as many have chosen to drive home and visit relatives and tourist attractions during the Spring Festival Holiday," the statement said.
Spring Festival, or Chinese New Year, falls on Feb 16 and Feb 17 this year. The week-long Spring Festival holiday starts on Feb 15.
"About 2.98 billion trips during the 40 days will be a big test for the country's transportation departments," said Mr Liu Xiaoming, an official with the Ministry of Transportation.
The freezing weather in many parts of China has posed more challenges for the authorities and the national observatory maintained its blue alert on Tuesday, after a cold front hit parts of central and east China.
Railway and airport staff have been removing snow and ice from roads to ensure passenger safety during travel.
An additional 177 high-speed train services will be put into service to carry 100,000 more passengers each day during the travel rush, according to China Railway Corporation (CRC).
China's railway network hit 127,000km in length at the end of last year, including 25,000km of high-speed railway.
Last year, 3,038km of new rail tracks were put into production, which the CRC said would further reduce pressure on other forms of public transportation.
To facilitate check-in and ease congestion, some railway stations have started since last year to use facial recognition technology to verify the identities of passengers.
At the same time, the aviation authority plans to schedule 30,000 more flights during the travel rush, said Mr Wang Zhiqing, deputy head of the Civil Aviation Administration.
Data from Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing shows that car-sharing services will be a hit during this year's travel rush.
A total of 33 million people will use ride-sharing services to get home this year, three times the total of the previous two years, according to the company.
Didi's head of carpooling services Huang Jieli said the company has seen a year-on-year increase of 10 per cent for trips home using the company's car-sharing services.