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December 13, 2013

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Railways brace for festival crowd

ABOUT 9.3 million passengers — a million more than last year — are expected to take the train out of Shanghai from the three railway stations for the Spring Festival next month.

The peak travel time for the festival, which falls on January 31 next year, will be between January 16 to February 24.

The Hongqiao Railway Station will ferry over 4.5 million passengers while 3 million more will depart from the Shanghai Railway Station.

For this year’s Spring Festival in February, the two stations along with the Shanghai South Railway Station carried a total of 8.39 million commuters.

That figure is expected to increase this year.

In the week before the Lunar New Year’s Eve, the three stations will handle over 300,000 travelers every day. Railway stations in big metropolis like Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou usually see a massive surge in passenger traffic ahead of the festival as migrant workers head home for family reunion. Provinces like the southwest Sichuan Province, which has a high rate of exporting labor, usually deals with transportation pressures at the end of the festival period.

With most Shanghai schools set to finish their semester between January 10 to 20, students will start leaving the city from January 17. More ticket vending machines will be installed at the university towns early next month that will offer another alternative for the non-local students to buy tickets.

Group ticket sales for the 2014 Spring Festival is already under way. However, the tickets are only for the extra trains that will be put into service to deal with the holiday rush.

Passengers can’t choose either the train type or seats for the group tickets. The ticket sales which opened on December 8 will last until December 16.

“I prefer the high-speed bullet trains, but we don’t have a choice,” said a ticket buyer surnamed Chen, who planned to go back to her hometown in Sichuan Province. With no chance of tickets for a bullet train, she is likely to spend 40 hours more on the train.

“It’s better to have a slow train than nothing at all,” she said.

The railway authorities are only accepting group ticket applications forms for now, and commuters like Chen will know their train type and seat number through a short message on December 21.

Tickets for regular trains will be available 20 days in advance and can be booked online or through telephone, or 18 days before at ticket counters and vending machines.

The Shanghai Railway Station will open 16 more windows to deal with ticket refunds and rerouting. But passengers are being told to plan their schedule carefully to avoid the high cancellations rates.

Authorities said 20 percent of the fare will be charged if passengers return or reroute their tickets with departure dates between January 16 and February 24. Chinese passengers tend to book more tickets than necessary as back-ups during the peak travel seasons, denying tickets to many others.


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