China is bracing for more than 1.7 billion passengers to hit the road over the Chinese Lunar New Year as people take advantage of the traditional festival to return home or travel.
The number of journeys was expected to be 3.3 percent higher than the same peak 40-day period last year at around 1.74 billion passengers.
That total -- which includes trips both to and from a given destination -- exceeds China's population, the world's largest at 1.3 billion. Some 43.5 million people will travel daily.
The government has declared a week-long holiday for the Chinese Lunar New Year, which starts on February 12.
Most people will travel by road, with passengers taking cars or buses expected to hit 1.58 billion, up four percent on last year.
An estimated 130 million people will travel by train, up two percent on the year. The commercial hub of Shanghai expects 20.8 million railway passengers, a rise of 2.3 percent.
Air passengers were expected to reach 7.25 million, up 1.5 percent. But the number travelling by boat was forecast to drop eight percent to 24.3 million.
Minister of Public Security, Jia Chunwang, has ordered police to crack down on crime during the holiday, the People's Daily reported.
Crime tends to rise during the Chinese New Year as migrant workers and others try to make money for their passage home or for holiday spending.
The holiday fever, which fuels a shopping spree, had already spilled over in the eastern city of Nanjing.
Some 200 police officers had to be rushed to control crowds as pre-holiday price cutting by department stores sparked a shopping frenzy which blocked traffic.
(China Daily January 23, 2002)