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Chinese tech firms make Spring Festival travel easier

CHINA'S annual Spring Festival travel rush, "Chunyun," is a daunting task for the country's transport system as hundreds of millions of Chinese people return home to spend time with their families.

But where there are challenges there are solutions, and Chinese tech firms are setting out to make hundreds of millions of people's trips home more convenient.

Chunyun started last Friday and will last for 40 days. A record 2.98 billion trips are expected during this period, making it the largest human migration on earth.

Rail is one of the most popular transport choices as it is reliable and inexpensive. Up to 356 million trips are expected to be made via rail over the 40-day period, up 9.7 percent year on year.

This means for a period the official online railway ticket booking website will be one of world's busiest websites as millions of people try their luck to get a ticket.

It is not an easy task and takes more than patience and luck, but many tech firms, especially online travel agencies such as Ctrip and Qunar, have rolled out special services to help buyers improve their odds of getting a ticket.

The avalanche of clicks, together with ticket-buying services, poses a growing burden for the official website. However, no major glitches have been reported so far, thanks to the help of Alibaba, which uses its cloud computing technology to help deal with the flood of web traffic.

The cloud computing platform can deal with up to 400,000 visits each second, according to Meng Liang, a senior engineer with Aliyun.

Those driving home or taking buses can get real-time information on road traffic conditions and bad weather notices to help with their route-planning.

The service is from search engine giant Baidu, which uses its sophisticated mapping service in partnership with the transport research institute under the Ministry of Public Security.

For those who have difficulty getting rail, flight or bus tickets, ride-sharing platform Didi Chuxing is offering a new way home.

Didi is asking for private car owners driving home this year to share vacant seats with those on similar routes, and they will use the data to match the demands of drivers and passengers.

The hitchhiking service enabled 1.9 million ride-sharing trips during last year's Chunyun and is expected to grow by over 300 percent to 8.4 million this year. Didi hopes that in ten years about half of China's private car owners will share their vacant seats as more people accept the idea of sharing.

"With the sharing economy and big data technology, together we can make our environment better and our trips easier and more fun," said Liu Qing, Didi's president.


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