|Passengers wait for trains at the Changchun Railway Station in Changchun, capital of northeast China's Jilin Province, Jan. 26, 2013. The 40-day Spring Festival travel rush started on Saturday. The Spring Festival, which falls on Feb. 10 this year, is traditionally the most important holiday of the Chinese people. It is a custom for families to reunite in the holiday, a factor that has led to massive seasonal travel rushes in recent years as more Chinese leave their hometowns to seek work elsewhere. Public transportation is expected to accommodate about 3.41 billion travelers nationwide during the holiday, including 225 million railway passengers, (Xinhua/Lin Hong)
BEIJING, Jan. 27 (Xinhua) -- Chinese authorities added extra travel contingencies to ensure the smooth kick-off on Saturday of the world's largest annual migration that starts before the Lunar New Year.
Railway authorities arranged 358 more passenger trains on Saturday to start handling the estimated 5.2 million daily trips over the next 40 days' peak travel season, said Zhao Chunlei, an official with the Ministry of Railways.
A record 3.41 billion trips are expected to be made over this year's Lunar New Year travel rush, as Chinese who have worked away from home see the holiday as the most important occasion for family reunion.
The country's rail network is expected to handle 225 million trips, while long-distance buses will see up to 3.1 billion passengers, which combine to account for 99 percent of the overall national capacity, according to the National Development and Reform Commission.
Chinese have traditionally favored road and rail transportation, whose fares are cheaper, for their home tours. On Saturday, signs of the holiday travel rush being commenced could be seen in many bus and train stations, where more staff and volunteers had been mobilized to maintain order.
In a square in front of the Guangzhou Railway Station, located in the capital of south China's Guangdong Province, hundreds of passengers slowly streamed into the station under broadcasted instructions.
With a huge migrant population working in its many factories, Guangdong is expected to handle the departure of more than 130,000 passengers on Saturday through the rail station in Guangzhou, said Huang Ni, vice head of the Guangzhou Railway Station.
Huang said over 1,000 trains have been dispatched from nationwide services to help tackle the travel rush in Guangzhou.
A train leaving the northern city of Taiyuan for Chongqing in the southwest on Saturday bedecked its compartments with red-colored couplets and paper-cuts carrying new year wishes.
"We'd like to make our home-bound travellers feel being welcomed," said Li Jie, an official at the train station in Taiyuan.
Chinese officials said this year's holiday travel rush will place the country's transport network under great pressures despite the opening of several high-speed rail lines including the world's longest linking Beijing and Guangzhou.
The Ministry of Railways has thoroughly checked the newly introduced trains and made emergency-response plans to guarantee rail safety, Zhao Chunlei said.
The country's road and shipping networks have also geared up to cope with booming passenger numbers, said He Jianzhong, a spokesman for the Ministry of Transport.
He said that 840,000 coaches will participate in the nationwide transportation and 13,000 ships have also been arranged to carry up to 700,000 per day.
China's airlines adopted a similar approach by increasing the combined transport capacity to handle 35.5 million journeys, up 4.9 percent from the same period last year.
Chinese Lunar New Year, or the Spring Festival, falls on Feb. 10 this year, making the holiday travel period spanning from Jan. 26 to March 6.