A motley group of baton-wielding People's Armed Police officers sliced through the surging crowd single-file. 'Move it along,' they called to whoever would listen. But those who gave way were immediately replaced by others. 'Passengers on the number 410 to Ningbo over here,' a station master shouted, pointing to a line of baggage-heavy travellers snaking across an iron barrier and out into the car park. Towards the rear of the column, an exasperated factory agent, with 'Development' stencilled on his baseball cap, was dragging a wayward worker forward. 'Come with me now,' he shrieked. 'Stay with the group.' Some of his other employees, all wearing similar caps, sheepishly pulled themselves and their belongings through the line and disappeared into the crowd. Guangzhou railway station enjoys a well-earned reputation for mayhem at Spring Festival. Much has to do with the excitement created by the swelling throngs of travellers, their booty-laden plastic suitcases and striped woven bags, and the inadequate facilities of the city's decaying downtown terminal. More of a factor is the sheer size of southern China's human migration. City authorities estimated 14.5 million people would travel to and from Guangzhou alone over the six-week period starting February 1, mostly from Guangdong's ranks of more than four million migrant workers. About 3.4 million would take trains, many going as far as Sichuan and Xinjiang, others only going to the northern provincial city of Shaoguan. The unprecedented size of the exodus nurtures its own demands for food, drink and shelter, for example, but primarily for tickets. That was evident by the hundreds of hawkers offering rides to Zhaoqing and Nanning, Beijing and Chengdu, Zhengzhou and Kunming. City rail officials said they would crack down on such activity this year. But besides some well-publicised raids at the start of the spring rush, and public threats to detain for two weeks those caught reselling tickets, hawkers have been left alone to do business. Still, making money this year has not been easy, explained one yellow-toothed hawker from Hubei province. The former day worker said: 'Some people are making thousands of yuan every day, others are suffering losses. How much you make depends on the ticket and whether anyone wants to buy it or not. 'For some tickets you can make 200 yuan (HK$186). But others nobody wants and you can't sell them even at half price.' Most galling, a second Hubei hawker added, had been a flood of counterfeit rail tickets, identifiable by their coarse touch. Thousands of unsuspecting travellers had been burned by buying bogus passages. 'The fake tickets have hurt us all,' he said. 'People don't want to buy altogether for fear of getting ripped-off.' The hawker estimated 2,000 touts were selling genuine rail tickets at the station, plus 700 to 800 selling bogus ones. The trade, he said, thrived on police co-operating or turning a blind eye. 'Everybody knows these tickets are coming out the back door,' he said. 'And the police are making money from it too. 'There was one passenger who spent 500 yuan on a ticket. When he discovered it was fake, he reported the hawker to the police, who detained him. But all the police would do was collect a 250 yuan fine. They split the money and let the hawker go. The passenger got nothing back.' A dejected Hebei-bound Shenzhen taxi driver said: 'The situation here is much worse than Shenzhen. 'I just saw a thief grab a wallet from a passenger and I stopped him. But several people came over and said they were going to beat me up. I think they were a gang. The cops just walked by and ignored it.'