Motorbike exodus hits the highways

08:28, January 30, 2011      

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A police car in Fengkai county, South China's Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, on Thursday clears the way for an army of migrant workers on motorcycles who were riding home for the Spring Festival. Provided to China Daily

The unusual freezing weather did not stop Mo Shuqiang from driving home on a motorbike for the upcoming Spring Festival.

The migrant worker from Guiping county of the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, with his wife and daughter, began his 10-hour ride by motorbike from Foshan, Guangdong province, early on Thursday morning.

"Driving a motorbike back home helps save money. Also, it is hard to buy a train ticket in this Spring Festival rush season," said the 36-year-old.

Like Mo, more than 100,000 migrant workers in the Pearl River Delta cities of Zhaoqing, Foshan and Zhongshan chose to drive home on motorbikes for Chinese New Year, which falls on Feb 3.

A single bus trip from Foshan, a manufacturing city in the delta region, to Guiping in Guangxi costs 300 yuan ($45.60) in the Spring Festival peak period, which is three times more than usual.

Mo's wife fed their young daughter, who was dressed in black cotton-padded clothes, a bowl of instant noodles at a tollgate along the National Highway 321 in Fengkai county, Zhaoqing city, as traffic banked up at the bottleneck that connects Guangdong and southwest inland areas.

"My daughter's face became red with the cold. But we are eager to go home. It makes us feel warm," he said.

This is the third time Mo has traveled from work to home by motorbike for the Spring Festival holiday.

"I will still go back to Foshan on a motorbike," said Mo, who was equipped with a safety helmet, bulky outerwear, leather gloves and kneepads.

To help migrant workers driving home on motorbikes, local traffic police in Zhaoqing have set up 23 rest stations along the 321 and 263 national highways, offering instant noodles, ginger soup and stoves.

"The number of migrant workers driving home on motorbikes has increased from 500 at the beginning of the festival rush season to 10,000 each day," said Li Ping, a publicity official with the Zhaoqing traffic police authority.

"We also provide motorbike maintenance service along the highway. Police are also patrolling in rush hours."

The annual phenomenon in the manufacturing Pearl River Delta region underlines the emasculated condition of the nation's railways and the size of the travel rush ahead of the Spring Festival, the most important traditional holiday for family reunions.

With millions traveling home by train in freezing weather for the festival, the country's rail authorities added as many as 630 trains to the network.

Peak volume is expected to begin on Saturday, less than a week before the Spring Festival, according to the Ministry of Railways.

The 40-day rush period, which began on Jan 19, is a testing time for the country's railway system as an estimated record 230 million travelers are expected to take trains home, a year-on-year increase of 12.5 percent, Xinhua News Agency said.

Source: China Daily
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