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Millions on the move

(China Daily)

11:19, February 16, 2013

Returning home, an annual ritual for most Chinese people before Spring Festival, has become a torturous test of will and persistence for many.

"No matter how difficult getting a ticket is, I have to buy one and return home," Liu Xiaodan, 26, who comes from Changde, Hunan province, and works in a karaoke club in Beijing, said at Beijing West Railway Station on Jan 23.

"I came to Beijing when I was 17 and began working in a restaurant," she recalled. "I worked there for more than three years, and my salary helped my parents pay my little brother's tuition after he was admitted to a distinguished university in Shanghai. I can only see my brother once or at most twice a year, especially since he graduated from the university and landed a job in Shanghai. So Spring Festival is a big occasion for me to be with my parents and my brother," Liu said, adding she would spare no efforts to get a train ticket back home.

"Last year, I bought two tickets, for me and my boyfriend. I know it is wrong to go to scalpers, but people like me never have any other choice," she sighed. "Before Spring Festival in 2009, I stood in line for nearly five hours on three consecutive days to get a ticket."

She succeeded, but she came down with a fever that she caught waiting in the cold.

"Of course, flying home is much easier and more convenient, but we migrant workers can't afford it. And most of us girls wouldn't consider taking a long-distance bus home out of safety concerns."

In addition to waiting in line at train station ticket offices, Liu said she had asked her boyfriend and colleagues to help check the website for booking train tickets to see if any were available.

"One of my friends said he has reserved a standing-room ticket for me. I came to the train station to see if there were any hard-seat tickets left. After all, standing for more than 20 hours in a train car is no laughing matter."

Fortunately, she did not need to wait in line for hours this year because "most people now use the ticket website or hotline to reserve tickets and then pick them up at railway stations or ticket agencies".

The Ministry of Railways ticket booking website,, handled about 200,000 users per second on its busiest days before Spring Festival, recording as many as 1.5 billion hits each day, according to the ministry.

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