Hotspot train station in Spring Festival travel rush mirrors economic, social changes

(Xinhua) 14:22, February 19, 2024

HEFEI, Feb. 19 (Xinhua) -- On the fourth day of the Chinese Lunar New Year, Wu Yisheng's Spring Festival break ended. At Fuyang West Railway Station, he was waiting for the train to take him to the coastal city of Ningbo. There, he has a cleaning job.

Wu, a migrant worker from Xieqiao Township, Yingshang County in Fuyang City, east China's Anhui Province, is one of the 2.3 million passengers transported by Fuyang railway authorities during the Spring Festival travel rush this year, a record high number.

Fuyang is one of China's largest labor export cities, and its Spring Festival travel flow reveals the transformations in China's economic landscape, changes in railway travel, and the development of inland cities.

"Because there are millions of migrant workers flowing out of Fuyang every year, the direction of the Spring Festival passenger flow, to some extent, mirrors labor demand fluctuations in certain regions," said Yang Lin, a Fuyang Railway Station staffer.

The earliest Spring Festival travel rush in Fuyang happened in the early 1990s when some cities were in dire need of a huge workforce. Swarms of rural surplus laborers from Fuyang ventured out to secure employments. The number of passengers handled by the Fuyang railway increased from 210,000 in 1992 to 1.72 million in 2010 and has kept growing ever since.

The free flow of labor migration moved first toward the Pearl River Delta in south China in the early 1990s, and, since the new millennium, spread to Shanghai and Hangzhou/Ningbo in the east coast.

This year saw a significant rise in the proportion of passengers moving within Anhui Province, according to Yang.

Zhang Wanfu waited patiently inside one of Fuyang Railway Station's waiting halls for the train bound for Hefei, the capital city of Anhui Province where he works at a home appliance factory.

Following job offers with better pay, Zhang has been working outside his hometown for 30 years, he finds Hefei a reasonable place to work as the job market there has become more vibrant in recent years and it's much closer to home.

Fuyang is also vying to retain the local workforce. A chartered train, during the Spring Festival travel rush in 2018, transported about 1,000 Fuyang migrant workers back home from Ningbo. As a result, the local government used that opportunity to turn the train into a makeshift job fair venue, informing the town fellows of job opportunities at home.

In 2019, a start-up industrial park was established in Fuyang for locals who previously sought job opportunities elsewhere to start their businesses at home. Today, 27 enterprises of various sizes have been established, creating employment for 1,635 people.

As one of the busiest hubs during the Spring Festival travel rush, Fuyang's train stations have witnessed drastic changes in how Chinese people experience train rides.

At peak times, as many as 10,000 passengers could be waiting on the square in front of the packed Fuyang Railway Station, Zhang Yong, a staff member of the station, reminisced of the past, adding that under such circumstances, makeshift waiting halls had to be set up.

The open-air waiting halls were marked by three colors representing three traffic directions leading to Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou respectively, to divide the travelers. The only thing to keep passengers warm was a spicy soup that sold at one yuan (about 14 U.S. cents) for each portion.

Today, even vacant seats may be found in the waiting halls. The Fuyang West Railway Station, a high-speed railway station launched in 2019, boosted Fuyang railway authorities' transportation capacity, ensuring improved comfort for passengers.

Despite the unprecedented size of passengers this year, long queues outside the station and overcrowded waiting halls have all been in the past, said Yang Lin.

"This year I'll take a bullet train to Ningbo, and it takes four hours, it's quick and comfortable," said Wu Yisheng.

(Web editor: Zhang Kaiwei, Zhong Wenxing)


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