Beyond railways, rainy and muddy journeys for homesick migrant workers

08:23, January 25, 2011      

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When Pu Yuanshun embarked on a motorcycle trip traveling through China's south, he was not expecting an enjoyable journey of interesting roadside scenery and adventures.

Instead, Pu and three others on motorcycles trekked three days on slippery roads caused by icy rains. Rest and food were often spared to save money and travel time.

"With five sweaters on, I'm still frozen," said Pu, when stopped by a Xinhua reporter, his face soaked with rain and hands blue with cold.

But Pu said he had no choice, as he was unable to purchase a train ticket home for the coming Spring Festival.

Falling on Feb. 3, this year's Spring Festival may see a record 2.85 billion passenger trips undertaken nationwide, as the Chinese return home from across the country for family reunions.

But difficult access to public transportation has forced many migrant workers to consider making the trip on their own.

On the Guangxi section of National Road 210, which links the wealthy coastal province of Guangdong to the southwestern inland areas, fleets of motorbikes carried migrant workers to their home provinces of Guizhou and Sichuan, and Chongqing Municipality.

From Guangdong alone, over 100,000 migrant workers have been expected to leave for home on motorbikes, said the local police.

A vehicle usually carried two, often a couple, and sometimes with a child sandwiched in between.

Riders have to wrap themselves in thick outerwear and raincoats to battle the freezing cold and icy rains, which have plagued the south since the start of this year.

But despite the added misery, motorists said the ride saved them considerable travel costs compared to train trips.

"If my family took the train to and fro, it would cost 1,200 yuan, or half of my monthly income," said a rider who refused to be named.

Local traffic police, however, have expressed concerns about fatigue and frequent rollover accidents of the motorcyclists on ice-coated roads.

The Ministry of Public Security Sunday said it had added 8,300 service stations to provide free food, medicine, and rest places for motor-riding migrant workers.

Placed on the country's major highways, the stations also sent police cars to clear the way for large groups of motorists.

Further, the Ministry of Public Security has cooperated with the Ministry of Railways to step up crackdowns on railway ticket scalping, the scourge of ticket scarcity before the Spring Festival.

The recent campaigns of two ministries have resulted in the arrests of 1,800 scalpers, and confiscating over 14,000 train tickets.

Source: Xinhua
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