China prepares for record Lunar New Year travel

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Jan 14 2011 08:27 PM | Updated as of Jan 15 2011 04:27 AM

BEIJING, China - China will see its biggest-ever Lunar New Year travel rush in coming weeks, prompting authorities nationwide to brace for potential complications such as bad weather, state media said Friday.

The movement of hundreds of millions of Chinese for the Lunar New Year, the country's most important holiday, is considered the biggest annual mass human migration in the world.

The number of separate passenger trips on the nation's transport grid is expected to reach 2.85 billion during this year's travel period from late January to late February, up 11.6 percent, Xinhua news agency said.

Lunar New Year's day falls on February 3 this year.

Xinhua said the figures were given by Liu Tienan, deputy director of the National Development and Reform Commission, the country's top economic planning agency, in a nationwide video conference Thursday on travel preparations.

Each year, masses of Chinese swamp the transport grid on their way back to their hometowns to celebrate the holiday with families.

China has well over 200 million migrant workers working away from their homes.

The numbers will swell further this year due to the rising ability of Chinese to afford travel, but the situation could be complicated by icy weather across large areas, Liu said.

A record 230 million passengers are expected on China's railways, up 12.5 percent, Liu said.

Road passenger trips will reach 2.55 billion, up 11.6 percent, while air trips will reach 32 million, an increase of 10.8 percent.

Liu and other officials ordered authorities across the nation to take measures to ensure rapid responses to transport problems such as accidents, vehicle breakdowns, and weather-related hurdles.

Millions of New Year travellers were stranded for days in early 2008 when freezing rain and other icy weather across much of the country's south and central regions threw the transport network into chaos.