Car-pooling helps ease journey

Updated: 2013-01-21 07:57

By Li Wenfang in Guangzhou (China Daily)

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Car-pooling helps ease journey

Li Zhenjie, an advertising company employee in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, said he felt relieved on Sunday to have made travel arrangements to reach his home in Zhoukou, Henan province, by car-pooling.

Li got to know a car owner, Gu Wubin, in Guangzhou, through an online forum of people from Henan. Gu is returning to Zhengzhou, Henan, for the Spring Festival holiday.

After the car-pooling campaign's organizer, Beijing Jinliufu Wine, which has sponsored the event for the third year, conducted identity checks on the driver and passenger, Li signed a contract on Sunday with Gu.

Beijing Jinliufu Wine provided the two with insurance policies.

Going home for the Chinese New Year, poses challenges because public transport facilities are overwhelmed by the amount of passengers.

During the peak of the Spring Festival travel rush this year, from Jan 26 to Mar 6, it is estimated 3.41 billion people will make trips - each leg of a journey counting as one trip.

The amount of people with travel plans outnumbers the tickets, and many will not get tickets to reach home in time for the New Year's Eve celebration.

Li, who has lived in Guangzhou for three years, managed to buy a "no-seat" train ticket to get home for Spring Festival in 2010. Last year, he booked a high-speed train ticket to Wuhan, Hubei province, from where he traveled on to Zhoukou.

"Car-pooling provides an alternative to the 'dead ends' like the plane and train," Li said.

And he found the idea appealing. "I watched a documentary on TV about a man who studied in the United States traveling from Beijing to Berlin through car-pooling to meet his girlfriend. It is much easier to get a free ride in a foreign country."

Li felt safe with the arrangement because of the identity check and the contract.

Gu, who works at an urban management bureau, was pleased to have a companion for the 1,000-plus-km trip, though he bears the responsibility for the passenger's safety.

"If he can drive, we can take turns," Gu said.

Besides, Gu said his offer of a free ride helps, even if only a little, because several million Guangdong workers will be returning to Henan for the holiday. This is the third year Gu will give someone a ride through the car-pooling initiative.

The nonprofit initiative organized by Beijing Jinliufu, which helped more than 20,000 people go home in the past two Spring Festivals combined, is one of the leaders in the growing car-pooling activities nationwide, according to the organizer.

The organizer verifies the information and matches passengers with drivers.

Car-pooling helps use resources effectively and helps build a conservation-minded society, said Peng Peng, a senior researcher at the Guangzhou Academy of Social Sciences.

The government is neither encouraging nor discouraging car-pooling, so it plays only a small role in easing the Spring Festival travel rush.

Peng said the responsibilities in car-pooling, concerning traffic accidents, safety and expenses, should be clearly identified in keeping with laws and regulations.

Gu hopes that the highway-toll-free period for Spring Festival will start earlier.

Passenger cars with fewer than seven seats are exempt from highway tolls from Feb 9 to 15. However, to reach home in time for the New Year's Eve, which falls on Feb 9 this year, many will set out before Feb 9.

(China Daily 01/21/2013 page5)