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Passengers at Beijing Railway Station during last year’s Lunar New Year travel period. Photo: Reuters

Chinese rail network predicts 440 million journeys over Lunar New Year period

  • China State Railway Group expects people to make 11 million train trips each day during the five-week Spring Festival
  • The holiday period sees the largest annual movement of people and the rail operator has laid on extra services to cope with demand

China’s rail network is gearing up to accommodate an estimated 440 million rail journeys over the Spring Festival, in what is the world’s largest annual mass movement of people.

China State Railway Group estimated that an average of 11 million train trips will be taken per day during the five-week period between 10 January to 18 February, in figures reported by news portal on Monday.

This represents an eight per cent increase from last year’s figure of around 410 million.

The peak travel period, known as chunyun in China, typically sees hundreds of millions of Chinese people return to their hometowns to reunite with relatives for the Lunar New Year, which falls on January 25 this year.

China’s high-speed rail network has slashed journey times to many parts of the country. Photo: Xinhua

Last year the holiday season saw just under 3 billion trips made by road, air and rail over a 40-day period.

In response to this year’s predicted travel flows, the state rail operator has increased its capacity to 5,275 scheduled train journeys per day, up to and during the seven-day Lunar New Year public holiday.

Advance train ticket sales reached a record high of 16.37 million journeys on January 3, with more than 309 million in total sold since December 12, the railway operator said.

Chinese tradition and business meet as incense makers prepare for Lunar New Year

In December, state rail services allowed travellers at some high-speed train stations to scan their ID cards, which are linked to facial recognition machines, or use e-tickets instead of paper tickets in anticipation of the travel rush.

The operator has announced plans to expand e-ticketing services to all stations across the network.

The holiday period sees hundreds of millions of people on the move. Photo: EPA-EFE

Some train stations in Guangzhou and Shenzhen have also introduced streamlined ticketing processes that use facial recognition to directly deduct the ticket fare from a traveller’s WeChat Pay account when they exit at their destination.

China has massively expanded its rail network in recent years at great cost, with more than 139,000km (86,370 miles) of rail lines and 35,000 kilometres of high-speed lines already built.

This has drastically shortened the time it takes for many Chinese to reach remote areas of the country that would have previously taken days of uncomfortable travel.

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This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: State rail operator readies for 440m festival travellers