Freezing weather disrupts holiday journey home

Updated: 2016-01-25 10:01


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Freezing weather disrupts holiday journey home

Travellers wait in line to board a train at a train station in Dongguan, South China's Guangdong province, Jan 24, 2016. Guangdong province saw its first snow in 67 years on Sunday, as extreme cold weather continued to move southward across China, bringing the lowest temperatures recorded in decades.[Photo by Liang Qing from South Metropolis Daily/CFP]

The worst cold snap in years disrupted travel plans of some Chinese as millions embarked on journeys home on Sunday, the first day of the 40-day Spring Festival travel rush.

Students, migrant workers and other passengers boarded trains, buses, and planes to head home for the Spring Festival, or the lunar New Year, which falls on Feb. 8 this year.

Their trips were impacted by the worst cold in decades, which caused snow and blizzards in eastern and southern provinces. Railway authorities in the eastern city of Nanjing said at least 38 trains were delayed on Sunday.

At the Hangzhou airport, many people started to line up for check-in early Sunday. Airport authorities said flights may be delayed because of defrosting. The airport expects to handle 80,000 passengers on Sunday.

"The Spring Festival travel rush means a bigger workload, and this year, the cold weather has kept us busier," said Liu Ying, a train attendant on the Shanghai-Nanjing express rail service.

Road traffic and flights were also disrupted in Yunnan Province. Since late Saturday, about 11,229 passengers have been stranded at the Kunming airport.p China's transportation authorities estimate more than 2.9 billion trips will be made around the country during the 40-day travel rush.

Motorbikers were also on the move Sunday. Clad in helmets, masks, thick gloves, raincoats, knee guards and layers of plastic bags around their legs, dozens of workers started their journeys from wealthy Guangdong Province, where they work, to neighboring Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.

Motorcyclist Wang Tianzhang got up at four o'clock in the morning on Sunday for a tiring two-day ride with his wife and fellow workers. They work in Foshan, Guangdong, and their hometown is an ethnic village in Guangxi's Hechi City. A train ride takes about 20 hours and requires several transfers. For them, riding motorbikes is more convenient and cost-effective.

"The weather got worse as we headed toward Guangxi. It was freezing, and we had to stop every hour to find some warmth," the middle-aged man said.

Traffic police in Wuzhou City, Guangxi expect to see 200,000 motorcycles this year. Eight service stations have been set up to provide repair services for them.

In eastern and northeastern China, where more high-speed rail routes operate, traffic pressure has eased this year.

A high-speed railway linking Shanghai with the northern city of Harbin takes about 12 hours, about half the travel time for a slower train.

Yang Cuikun, an official with the Nanjing railway authority, said changes in the lifestyles of migrant workers have also contributed to the ease.

"More migrant workers have settled in cities and no longer go back to their hometowns for the lunar new year. Migrant workers are also choosing employment near their hometowns as wages in eastern provinces lose their appeal," said Yang.

At a filling station in Wuzhou, motorcyclist Zhou Xiaodi squeezes water out of his gloves. "Going home has never been easy," he said. "In a few years, I will save enough money to find a job near my home and stay close to my family."