The world's largest population has been on the move since Monday as millions of travelers wait the traditional Chinese family reunion season. This year's Spring Festival travel period lasts 40 days, from January 28 to March 8.
A total of 1.74 billion travels by passengers taking various forms of public transport are predicted, about 100 million more than last year.
Wu Qiang, a senior official with the Ministry of Railways, said the first peak will fall on February 7-9, and involve about 3.6 million people.
The second peak will be on February 18-20 with 4.1 million people, while the third peak will be from February 28-March 2 and involve 3.6 million people.
So far this year, the volume of railway passengers peaked on January 18 at 2.6 million, mainly involving students on holiday and transient laborers.
This was earlier than in past years, Wu said.
The volume will increase steadily in the coming days, he predicted.
Official estimates indicate there are about 70 million migrant workers going back home across the whole country during the traffic peak this year.
To ensure that passengers get home safely and conveniently, local governments in Beijing, Guangdong and other places have mobilized migrant workers to return home earlier to avoid heavy traffic.
As China's economy turns more market-oriented and as the society becomes more open, an increasingly large number of Chinese have left their home to seek employment or to study in distant cities or provinces.
This has made the Spring Festival traffic a great challenge to the country's transport systems.
Fortunately, the completion of many new roads has greatly eased the traffic in recent years.
During the period from 1996 to 2000, China built a total of 240,000 kilometers of roads, many of which are high-quality expressways.
This has provided another way for many passengers to return home.
This year, about 1.58 billion travels by passengers will take place by bus within the peak traffic period, up 4 per cent over the same period last year.
The air services in China have also lowered their prices gradually, and will attract an unusually higher number of passengers than normal by offering considerable discounts during the peak traffic periods.
Some air services have launched special "visiting families" flights, and many migrant workers have even reserved chartered planes to go home.
(China Daily February 1, 2002)