Lunar New Year

Huge queues, thousands stranded at Guangzhou train station as cold weather hits Lunar New Year holiday travel in China

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 02 February, 2016, 9:57am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 02 February, 2016, 10:35pm

More than 100,000 people were stuck at Guangzhou’s railway ­station in southern China late on Monday, facing long delays amid icy rain, as ­millions made their way home for the Lunar New Year.

The cold weather has brought rain and snow from the north, ­delaying the arrival of trains in Guangzhou and leaving passengers stranded at the station.

READ MORE: Bittersweet Chinese Lunar New Year holiday: migrant workers sent home early as factories struggle with economic downturn

In the Yangtze River Delta – ­another major migrant worker hub – about 30,000 people were stuck at Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station after more than 50 trains were delayed due to bad weather, railway authorities said.

The station opened 12 extra counters for passengers to get refunds or book new train tickets, according to the Xinmin Evening News.

The long queues at the Guangzhou station were similar to those in 2008 when a massive snowstorm swept across southern China, causing severe delays. Tens of thousands of workers were stranded at the railway square for over a week, unable to get home.

Yesterday, the station put into force its Level Three emergency measures for the first time since 2008. Bus terminals, taxi drop-off points and subway stations linked to the railway were closed to stop more people from packing into the square.

On Monday, more than 32 trains were delayed at the station. But the number had gone down to 24 by yesterday afternoon, China News Service reported.

Railway authorities said the delays were caused by snowy weather in northern China and bitter cold in Jiangxi, Hubei and Hunan.

Some people arrived at the station two days ahead of their journey, fearing they would not catch their train in time because of the long queues, the authorities said.

Many passengers complained of poor organisation, saying the situation this year was worse than last year. The long queues and chaos caused many to miss their trains.

Passengers were advised to arrive at the station only three hours before departure. The station also stepped up security, deploying more than 2,600 guards.

To help with crowd control, subway services stopped ferrying passengers to the railway station after 10.30am yesterday, according to radio reports in the city. Roads near the station had already been sealed off two days ago and taxis were also not allowed near the area.

READ MORE: Ah, the joys of Chinese Lunar New Year train travel: smelly instant noodles, cheesy feet and noisy children

“We are turning down passengers who want to go to the station because we are not allowed there any more,” one taxi driver said.

China’s Lunar New Year travel season is considered the world’s biggest annual human migration.

The national railway authority expects to ferry 332 million passengers this season – a rise of nearly 13 per cent from the same time last year, Xinhua reported.

Some 2.91 billion passenger trips are expected to be made on all forms of transport over the 40-day travel period, which runs from January 24 to March 3.

Travellers will cover 410km on average, according to the transport ministry.