Only 20m cheap train tickets for 140m people travelling from the Pearl River Delta Wang Liping is desperate to go home to reunite with her two daughters for the Lunar New Year, but will probably have to pay for an expensive journey this year. Train tickets for the Lunar New Year season are sold two days ahead of time, but usually sell out within an hour. If the 32-year-old migrant worker from Huaihua, Hunan, cannot get a ticket, she will have to pay 330 yuan more for a coach ticket, nearly a fifth of her monthly salary as a maid. Ms Wang said she had enjoyed family reunions twice a year since coming to work in Guangdong province seven years ago. But the high cost of travel during holidays had kept her apart from her two daughters in Huaihua, about 1,200km from Guangzhou, at other times. It has been estimated that about 140 million people in the Pearl River Delta will travel in late January and early February, but only 20 million cheap train tickets are available. For migrant workers, securing a ticket can be a herculean task. In Shenzhen, only 680,000 among about 9 million passengers will be able to get a ticket before the festival, including one-tenth specially put aside for migrant workers. The probability of getting a train ticket is just 6 per cent. The city's two booking hotlines are the only realistic hope, and they receive 2 million calls daily for a mere 30,000 tickets available each day. Passengers have to get up at 6am and dial on average 65 times to get through the hotline. 'We were told all the tickets had already sold out when the ticket booth opened,' Mr Xu from Neijiang in Sichuan said. He was first in the queue and waited for 12 hours, but still failed to get a ticket. More than 30,000 passengers waited at Guangzhou Railway Station yesterday, and the authorities deployed more than 1,500 police to maintain order. Li Lejun and four friends from Hunan province were attacked and stabbed by three men who wanted to jump the queue at Guangzhou Railway Station on January 13. The 16-year-old will now have to spend the holiday in hospital with wounds on his shoulder, back and legs. Last year, 7,179 Chinese travellers died on their way home during the 40-day Lunar New Year travel period. Most casualties happened on long-distance coaches - usually overloaded and piloted by weary drivers. But if getting the tickets is a difficult task, so too is bringing home enough money, especially for those who do not plan to return after the holiday. In Dongguan, 600,000 migrant workers were said to have cashed in their social-insurance premiums last month. In Shenzhen, social-security centres were also jam-packed this month - with many queueing in the middle of the night hoping to beat the crowds. Standing in a queue in Baoan district, a worker surnamed Zhou from Shandong said he saw no point in contributing to an insurance plan that would take 15 years to mature. 'We're just poor migrant workers; who knows what'll happen in 15 years?' he said, before cashing in a 2,350 yuan fund - about two times his monthly salary. This year, an increasing number of migrant workers are waving goodbye to the Pearl River Delta, leaving the region's factories to face a huge labour shortage. A recent survey conducted by Shanghai's Fudan University interviewed 23,000 migrant workers and 10,000 employers in 40 mainland cities, and found half of the migrant workers in the Pearl River Delta planned to leave. Another survey conducted by the Southern Metropolis Daily suggested one-third of migrant workers in Shenzhen planned to leave the city and seek opportunities where pay is better and costs lower. Low wages coupled with rising inflation, worsening working conditions and social discrimination discourage workers from staying. Assembly worker Wen Yutang said that even though he had worked in Shenzhen for 14 years, he was not able to save any money because of the city's high cost of living. He earns 1,600 yuan a month. He needs to send 800 yuan back to his wife and two children in Guizhou, then spends 400 yuan for his shared flat and 250 yuan on food. He has to work overtime every day. The Pearl River Delta is losing its attraction to migrants. Economic growth in other regions has created new opportunities. Many are leaving Guangdong for the rival Yangtze River Delta region, where factories offer better pay and living costs are less. Last year, workers in the Yangtze River Delta earned an average 1,298 yuan a month.