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Passengers often can't take direct route home

01-11-2012 10:32 BJT Special Report:2012 Spring Festival |

By Guo Nei (China Daily)

BEIJING - After shivering and staying awake for 35 hours on the train, Su Yue arrived at Xi'an Railway Station, Shaanxi province. But this was not the end of the 20-year-old college student's trip back home for the Spring Festival.

She grabbed a taxi at dawn on Saturday for a 40-minute ride to the airport to catch a flight that would land after another three hours in her home city of Urumqi, in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region.

Su's 45-year-old mother, who had been waiting at the airport, said her heart ached at the sight of her daughter's unkempt hair and weary face.

"No need to save money for me next time. Take a direct flight," Su Tongmei told her daughter.

Su Yue goes to the university in Kunming, Southwest China's Yunnan province. A direct flight from that city to Urumqi takes more than five hours, but it took about two days to get there by Su's circuitous route.

She said she did not want her mother to pay 2,000 yuan ($317) for a plane ticket.

Given the mountainous terrain in China's western regions, there is no direct train between the two cities. Su first had to travel northeast to Xi'an by train and then fly back west to Urumqi.

She suffered during the long train trip. The air-conditioner blew chilly air near Su as she crouched in the upper bed, and she caught cold soon after boarding the train. The train crew chatted loudly at night, keeping her awake.

"I don't mind taking a strange route or staying on the train for a long time, as long as I get home safe and sound. But I got sick on the train because of the unsatisfactory service, and the first days of my holiday have been spoiled," she said.

This year, roundabout routes are a hot topic among people who study or work away from home and are eager to go back to celebrate the Spring Festival.

For Su Yue, the reason to take a roundabout route was to save money, while for others, it is because of limited seats available for the direct route.

A story about a white-collar worker in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, who reportedly found it easier to fly to Bangkok first to get home to Kunming in time for the holidays recently caused a buzz online.

The story could be an exaggeration, judging by searches on two travel company websites - Qunar and Ctrip - China Daily made on Tuesday. But there is no doubt that people are being forced to make detours, sometimes through three or more cities, and shift from one means of transportation to another during the Spring Festival travel rush.

The Ministry of Railways expects 235 million people, most of them college students and migrant workers, will head home during the 40-day rush.

Part of the pressure has been caused by the timing of the holiday this year, with the Lunar New Year falling on Jan 23, which is closer to the end of the school semester than in previous years.

Because of this, migrant workers, who usually leave later, are chasing after train tickets at the same time as college students. The added crush of passengers is being felt most in major cities, with many trying their luck by traveling to smaller cities nearby to look for long-distance tickets.

Last year, to ease the crowds at train stations, the Ministry of Railways launched a ticket sales website. But users complain that it constantly crashes due to the sheer weight of people trying to access it.

Li Shaopeng, a 24-year-old who works in marketing, spent the New Year's Day waiting in a long line at Beijing West Railway Station to get a ticket to his home in Chengdu, Sichuan province.

Due to the scarcity of available seats, he settled on a journey to Hohhot in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region, where he had heard that tickets were available. However, when he arrived on Jan 6 he discovered that all the seats were gone. He had to spend a night before he could get a seat on a connecting train.

"Many have had to chop up their journeys because direct train tickets are limited," Li said. "Railway stations and the Ministry of Railways should offer us help.

"If the ministry had established a website showing real-time ticketing information, I could have known the scarcity of tickets from Hohhot to Chengdu and changed my travel arrangements from Beijing," he added.

Editor:Wang Chuhan |Source: China Daily

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