Saturday, January 3, 2009

China's Train Chaos Begins

Yesterday on my way to work, I saw a massive line of hundreds of people waiting to buy train tickets at the ticket office near my work.

Here is a story on the current state of China's train passenger glut from China's Xinhua News:

Guangzhou's train station last year

BEIJING, Jan. 3 (Xinhua) -- For many Chinese who want to nab railway tickets home for the annual Spring Festival migration, the government's promise of having a better system by 2012 is just a distant hope.

Starting Friday, the first day to book tickets for the travel rush expected to last from Jan. 11 to Feb. 28, long queues appeared at ticket booths in almost every major railway hub.

In Wuhan, college students were first hit by the rush, as many schools' winter break starts from Jan. 10 to 17.

As more than 70 percent of the 1 million resident students there were expected to go home by train, local railway authorities have set up ticket agents on campus, opened more ticket booths for students at stations and offered special trains for students.

But many still found it difficult to get tickets, especially to Urumqi, Qingdao, Jinan, Harbin, Zhanjiang and Nanning. At the Wuchang Railway Station alone, more than 60,000 tickets were sold on Friday.

In Shanghai, police and security officers were put 24-hour on guard to maintain order and prevent accidents. They gave each passenger a number and assigned them to different waiting lines.

Read On
The most amazing part of this article to me is this:
In a column in the Shanghai-based Oriental Morning Post on Saturday, he said that the per capita railway mileage in China was only 6 cm, shorter than a cigarette.

"Even after the mileage is extended from the current 78,000 km to 110,000 km, per capita rail lines in China will only be 8.5 cm. Can we really say good-bye to ticket shortages by then?"

Those numbers show just how mind-boggling ridiculous the situation is here in China where nearly everybody relies on train travel.

I'm about to experience my third Chinese new year in China. I'm very thankful that I've never tried traveling by train during this time period. Although it's been enticing to do some traveling since there is a week break for the new year, trying to deal with this kind of chaos just doesn't seem worth the effort to me.

This year, I will be spending the holiday with Jackie's family here in Xi'an. We will not have to go anywhere since she is a Xi'an local.

Speaking of the Chinese new year and Spring Festival, which officially begins on January 25th, I'm really excited that I'm getting the chance to experience both Christmas in America and Spring Festival in China this year.

These two holidays are the best time of the year in each respective country.

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