China on the move as National Day holiday ends and millions head home

Railways, airports and roads creak under the pressure of returning holidaymakers

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 07 October, 2018, 9:07pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 07 October, 2018, 10:26pm

China’s transport networks were stretched to capacity over the weekend as the second “golden week” holiday of the year in the world’s most populous country drew to a close.

On the railways, an estimated 15.2 million people – or more than three times the population of Ireland – were expected to travel on Sunday alone, according to estimates from national operator China Railway Corporation, which said it had laid on more than 800 extra trains to cope with the spike in demand.

While the skies over China were not quite so busy, airports were still gearing up for the huge numbers of travellers arriving back in time for work on Monday morning.

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Pudong International Airport in Shanghai said it was expecting 220,000 inbound passengers on Sunday, while at Capital International in Beijing, the figure was only slightly lower at 167,300.

For those behind the wheel of their own vehicles, progress was slow on both Saturday and Sunday as motorways and trunk routes the length and breadth of the country clogged up with traffic, according to reports by state broadcaster CCTV.

Since 1999, the National Day holiday has been a week-long break for people across China’s mainland. It starts on or around October 1, and like the nation’s other golden week – held to mark the Lunar New Year – is defined by the movement of hundreds of millions of people as they travel to visit families or head off to popular tourist destinations at home and abroad.

According to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, people made 502 million trips within China in the first four days of the holiday and spent 416.9 billion yuan (US$60.5 billion), an increase of about 8 per cent from the same period of last year.

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Between the start of the travel rush on September 28 and Saturday, the number of train journeys made rose by more than 11 per cent form last year to 138 million, the ministry said.

Across the country, 160,000 police officers were used to keep people and traffic moving as smoothly as possible, Xinhua reported.

This year’s most popular overseas travel destinations were Japan, Thailand and South Korea, according to figures from online travel agency Ctrip.

South Korea regained its position among the top choices for Chinese travellers after plunging to 17th place last year as Beijing and Seoul locked horns over the latter’s decision to deploy a US missile defence system.

In contrast, the United States slumped to 11th on Ctrip’s destinations list – from fifth last year – most likely as a result of the US-China trade war.

The holiday period was also a popular time for weddings. In east China’s Shandong province, 45,999 couples tied their knot over the course of the week, according to local news website Sdnews.com.cn. One particularly popular hotel in the Shandong city of Zaozhuang hosted 12 wedding banquets in a single night, local media reported.

Despite all those celebrations, the week was considerably less joyous for China’s cinemas, which actually recorded a dip in ticket sales from last year.

In a week that also saw the reappearance, at least on social media, of the tax-dodging superstar Fan Bingbing, box office takings fell to 1.8 billion yuan, from 2.9 billion yuan a year earlier.