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February 9, 2013

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Canceled buses dash hopes of reunions

Lin Wenbing approached a ticket booth at the Shanghai Central Long-Distance Bus Station yesterday afternoon, his ticket in his hand, and said simply: "Refund."

Behind him there was a line of people seeking refunds or rescheduled travel.

Lin was among the tens of thousands of unfortunate migrant workers whose trips home were canceled because of heavy snow in Shanghai and the neighboring provinces of Jiangsu and Zhejiang.

"It's the first time I have ever seen that," said Lin, who has been working in the city for five years.

He came to the station yesterday morning to be told that the bus to his hometown in Fujian Province had been canceled.

Waiting to hear if the service would resume, Lin remained at the station through lunchtime. But with no sign of movement, Lin was at a loss about what to do. "I can go nowhere," he said.

In the morning, more than 1,300 services from the station had been canceled, including those to Zhejiang, Jiangsu, Anhui, Fujian and Jiangxi provinces, although some were able to set out in the afternoon.

At the Shanghai South Long-Distance Station, more than 800 services were canceled. It was due to send up to 45,000 passengers on their way home yesterday, but fewer than half started their journeys.

Voices were raised from time to time as passengers quarreled with station staff, while others kept their eyes trained on the gates for any sign that services were about to resume. One man was even in tears as he contemplated not being able to get home for his family reunion.

"We can't get home either," one station worker was heard to shout at the Shanghai Central Long-Distance Bus Station in Zhabei District, surrounded by angry passengers, his face going red.

Other staff held up signs to tell the passengers which buses could allow boarding.

A woman passenger, surnamed Deng, said she and her grandson had been waiting for more than an hour but there had been no good news.

"My son told me to take the boy to Jiangsu to have New Year's eve dinner together," said Deng, watching the boy, sitting on their piles of luggage, finish his lunch.

"Any bus service will do, just let us leave."

"I'm lucky because I was able to buy a railway ticket," said Qin Min, a barber, whose hometown is in north China's Hebei Province.

His train will leave today, in time for New Year's eve dinner.

But for Lin, the reunion dinner might not happen this year.

There are only two services a day, weather permitting, to his hometown and no direct train.

Lin gathered up his bags to leave but a ticket scalper agreed to connect him with private bus operators, mostly unlicensed, based outside the station.

However, hope faded after a few calls, with the scalper telling Lin: "No services at all."

Lin left his phone number with the scalper.

"Maybe he will call me back."


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