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February 12, 2010

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Stranded train, bus passengers live in hope of home reunions

LIU Jianlin, 22, tucked his head into his black coat, murmuring in a low voice, "Oh, no, not my train."

On the south square of Shanghai Railway Station, a woman had just said over the PA system: "We are sorry to inform you the L8456 train to Bengbu has been delayed and is expected to leave by 7:30pm."

Liu, with a ticket for L8456 in his hand, stepped out of a waiting tent in the square that held hundreds of passengers just like him. On his watch, it was 2:10pm. The original boarding time: 12:46pm.

Liu, who works in a Shanghai perfume factory, said he intended to get a refund on the ticket and see "if other trains are available."

Thousands of passengers, eager to leave the city for family reunions during the Spring Festival, found themselves stranded yesterday at railway and bus terminals as snow hit other places in China, such as Jiangsu and Anhui provinces.

Bengbu, in Liu's home province of Anhui, was among the places affected by the bad weather.

Many passengers had to wait for four to five hours to board trains or buses. At least 15 trains at the station were delayed by late yesterday.

A mother traveling with her daughter hoped to get on the same train as Liu.

"I'd like to buy ourselves the stools," she said, referring to items sold by venders outside the station. The two bought standing tickets and the stools might give them rest during the five-hour trip.

Traffic authorities remained optimistic, saying most people would make their trips.

Han Yi, a rail-station spokesman, said the passengers stuck in the station would leave within a day when the weather got better. "It's unlike the mess in 2008," he said.

During the 2008 holiday rush, tens of thousands of passengers were stuck in the city for at least three days as heavy snow hit northern China.

Long-distance bus stations yesterday saw the worst fallout since the seasonal rush began on January 30, as 150 trips to eight provinces were canceled and 220 delayed.

According to Shanghai Long-Distance Bus Station, more than 1,000 passengers had tickets refunded.

Some of the delayed passengers who insisted on traveling yesterday took shelter in the underground alleys of Metro Line 1. They were tired, but still held high hopes of getting home for the festival.

Outside, the city weather did not seem pleasant, either.

"Damn it, here comes the hail," said Liu, who did not carry an umbrella.


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