Guangzhou travel crush eases, but worse expected to come

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 February, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 February, 2007, 12:00am

The crush at Guangzhou Railway Station eased yesterday as more trains left on schedule carrying passengers heading home for Lunar New Year, but police predicted that travel chaos could return over the holiday period.

'It was better this afternoon [than on Sunday]. Fifty-six trains left and only six were delayed. We did not have to block the road [to accommodate travellers] for the full day,' Yuexiu district Public Security Bureau spokesman Luo Yuqiu said. He added that another 67 trains were scheduled to leave between 4pm yesterday and 8am today.

Mr Luo said police had to block off 400 metres of Huanshi West Road outside the station to accommodate 70,000 passengers for most of Sunday. An extra 1,000 police officers were deployed.

'We are expecting things to get worse in the next two to three days. The passenger peak will come today, tomorrow and on the next day,' he said.

Mr Luo said the crowds were huge because some non-ticket holders came to the station to try their luck, while others with tickets arrived too early.

Zhou Changyong, a migrant worker from Chengdu in Sichuan, said he arrived at 10am to wait for his 8pm train to Chongqing .

'I paid 130 yuan more for my ticket, which normally costs 170 yuan. It's for the hard seat compartment, but it's for standing room only,' said Mr Zhou.

A Guangzhou Railway Group spokesman said the Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Dongguan railway stations moved a total of 593,000 passengers on Sunday and 600,000 passengers yesterday. Passenger traffic was expected to peak today and remain heavy until Friday.

The railway authority has blamed bad weather 'up north' for the delays, but was unable to say exactly in which provinces. Police say the Ministry of Railways' decision not to raise ticket prices made more people choose to travel by rail.

However, Yuan Gangming , an economist at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, pointed to the massive number of migrant workers and poor management by railway authorities.