Crowds jam roads on way home

Updated: 2014-01-29 08:06

By Cao Yin and Hou Liqiang (China Daily USA)

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Annual travel rush expected to log more than 3.6 billion trips

The number of people on their way home has surged as Spring Festival nears.

On Jan 16, when the Spring Festival travel rush began, Chinese people made 83.8 million road trips, the Ministry of Transport said. The figure jumped to 97.8 million on Monday, bringing the total trips so far this season to 1.06 billion - a 5.4 percent increase from last year.

Transport officials predicted at a news conference in early January that more than 3.6 billion passenger trips, including 3.2 billion trips by road, will be recorded during the 40-day Spring Festival holiday.

Online giant Baidu has also provided a chart-style image of the travel rush via its own location-based service.

The country's largest search engine collected travel data from cellphone users who downloaded applications with the location-based service to create a map on on Sunday, showing where people are going and from where, the company said.

Baidu provided the location-based service to users more than 3.5 billion times a day in August.

Crowds jam roads on way home

Although the map was released two days ago, data collection has been ongoing since early January, "which means people can find out some figures prior to the platform being established," said a senior employee responsible for the project, who refused to be identified.

Beijing and Chongqing were the two cities with the most departures and arrivals, according to the map. The busiest route was from the Chinese capital to Xuancheng, Anhui province.

The earliest data is recorded on Jan 16 and the information is updated every hour, the employee said.

Red lines on the map show arrivals, while yellow ones show departures. "When there is a large passenger flow, the map will become bright, while if there are not many passengers, such as at midnight, it'll turn dark," he said.

The employee confirmed the project will continue in the future because the information will be valuable for other departments in studying population movements and providing more convenience for passengers, he said.

For instance, travelers will be informed which road is crowded when they are ready to go home, "which may be a big help for them when they make their return plans," he said.

In addition, data security can be ensured "because the location-based service is just a code that we collect, and is not attached to users' personal information," he said. The map also vividly shows passengers' urgent desire to return home, he added.

Huang Guohu from Leiyang, Hunan province, missed his high-speed train on Tuesday morning because he misjudged the time it took to go to the train station, making his eight-hour journey back home 16 hours longer.

The 29-year-old, now working in Suzhou, Jiangsu province, paid a heavy price for his misjudgment, but was still determined to go back "because my parents are longing for my return", he said.

"There is only one train from Suzhou to Changsha (Hunan province) where I have to take another train to go back home. There is also no available ticket tomorrow. So I couldn't change my ticket," he said.

Huang had no choice but to call his classmate and ask him to book an airline ticket for him. The flight, however, took off at about 4 pm in Shanghai and will arrive in Wuhan, Hubei province, which is still 12 hours by train from his hometown.

Huang took a train from Suzhou to Shanghai first and then took the subway to Shanghai Pudong International Airport, which took him more than two hours.

Unlike Huang, Wang Qing, 31, sought to bring her family to her city. Wang invited her father to Beijing to have the family reunion.

"My 18-month-old girl is too young. It'll take a lot of energy to bring her if we return to my hometown in Shandong province, whether we take a train or flight," she said.

Meanwhile, a ticket back home is too hard to get, "but the one from rural areas to big cities is much easier to buy during the travel rush," she said.

"After all, the most important thing is the family reunion itself, not where we actually get together," she added.

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 Crowds jam roads on way home

Beijing West Railway Station is crowded with passengers on Tuesday. Millions of people are expected to embark on their journeys home as Spring Festival draws near. Wang Jing / China Daily

(China Daily USA 01/29/2014 page4)