Record breaks again as 7.1 m take trains back on Saturday

09:04, February 21, 2011      

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A record number of people took the train on Saturday as students and migrant workers continued to flood back to big cities following the Spring Festival holidays.

The network carried a staggering 7.13 million passengers on Saturday, two days after the traditional Lantern Festival that was the last big day of the Spring Festival holidays, the Ministry of Railways announced at the weekend.

The number of people on the move was a new daily record, eclipsing the previous record of 6.88 million set on Feb 8 and some 16 percent more than the number that took the train on the equivalent day last year.

The number of people riding the rails each day had been climbing for several days before the record fell as students rushed back to cities to register for courses and migrant workers headed back for work, the ministry said.

Railway stations in Chengdu, Wuhan, Hefei and Changsha, in the central and western parts of China, saw large numbers of people pass through on Friday. More than 800 extra trains were on track each day to cope with demand, the ministry said.

In Beijing, 380,000 passengers arrived at the capital's railway stations on Friday.

An official at Beijing West Railway Station said around 210,000 passengers were arriving at that one station each day.

In Shanghai, about 136,000 passengers traveled through the city's three railway stations on Sunday.

It is estimated that more than 38 million passengers will have traveled through Shanghai by the time the peak travel season is over, Shanghai railway bureau said on its official website.

In Fuyang, Anhui province, which is home to a large number of migrant workers, 102,000 people left by train on Saturday.

According to Zhang Yongbin, director of the Shanghai General Long-Distance Bus Station, Shanghai added 500 extra buses each day from Friday to Sunday. The buses joined the city's long-distance fleet of 1,200 vehicles and helped deal with the 50,000 passengers a day who were returning from their vacations via bus.

Local reports said that in Guangzhou companies had arranged for extra buses to take returning migrant workers to cities throughout the Pearl River Delta region.

The massive numbers of people taking trains at the weekend made journeys uncomfortable for many.

"My carriage was packed with students and migrant workers, leaving little room for me to elbow my way to the toilet," said Tong Chen, a 23-year-old student at Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications. Tong was returning to the capital from his hometown in Sichuan province.

"I knew there would be a lot of other passengers but I had no other choice but to travel because the new semester was about to start," Tong said.

A migrant worker surnamed Zhang was quoted by China News Service as saying he sat on top of a water tank in a washroom on his train ride back to Beijing.

China's railway authorities have said they expect to move 230 million passengers by the end of the 40-day Spring Festival travel period, which officially ends on Feb 27.

By Tan Zongyang and Qian Yanfeng, China Daily
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