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Railway: Daily Passengers Hit 2.94 Million
More than 20 million passengers have taken trains home for the Spring Festival -- the traditional Chinese Lunar New Year -- since last Monday.

The average daily volume of railway passengers over the past week reached 2.77 million and this surged on Sunday to 2.94 million, according to the latest statistics from the Ministry of Railways.

And the number of railway passengers is expected to keep increasing in the coming days, with the first peak falling on February 7-9.

Trains are still the most important means of long-distance travel in China.

The country's 40-day transportation peak period covering the festival will run until March 8.

Wu Qiang, a senior official with the ministry, said preparations had ensured the situation was "under control." The country's railway system is capable of handling the anticipated huge number of passengers, said Wu. The ministry finished repairs and inspections of the railways around the country weeks ago to ensure maximum safety.

It put a total of 1,533 extra trains into operation between January 28 to February 4 to cope with the swell in passenger numbers - up 216 on the same period of last year.

Extra trains running across the country totalled 277 on Sunday.

Zhang Teng, the publicity department official with the Beijing Railways Bureau, said that order in Beijing's railway stations was "not bad" and possibly better than last year.

Most migrant workers can get tickets home in Beijing, said Zhang. But he admitted tickets for fast trains were still in short supply.

Zhang suggested people should book tickets three to five days in advance.

The bureau has adopted various means to make things more convenient for passengers, including 24-hour ticket sales services, opening more sales booths and employing more security staff at railway stations.

People in Beijing can buy railway tickets at 528 spots around the city.

Passengers said they were familiar with the price increase of train tickets during the festival holidays.

The State Development Planning Commission held a public hearing to determine the price hike last Month.

The ministry predicts the number of passengers travelling by train during the 40-day peak period will be 130 million, around 2 per cent increase over last year.

Bus passenger numbers are also high while airlines in China are trying to attract more passengers during the traffic peak by offering cut-price deals on their flights and launching special "visiting families" offers.

(China Daily February 6, 2002)

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